Longview has reached the second half of the 2022 District 7-5A Division I football schedule, and plans to continue its success against a quality McKinney North opponent in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. home game at Lobo Stadium.

“Find a way to be 1-0,” Longview athletic director and head football coach John King said of his team’s focus this week. “I feel like if we win this ball game, we secure our playoff spot, and possibly a high seed and home playoff game. No game’s bigger than this one.”

Longview may be the only remaining undefeated team from the district, but it knows from recent experiences that it can’t take McKinney North lightly. The programs are meeting in district play for the third straight season, and the home teams won the 2020 and 2021 series matchups. That trend indicates a slight Lobo edge this week, but the 2022 Bulldogs can’t be ignored with their 6-1 record on the season, and their tied-for-second 3-1 district mark.

“It’s going to be an interesting matchup,” King said of this week’s football game. “The big thing is we gotta stop the [McKinney North] run. That’s a strong suit, and they gave us fits with it last year. Quarterback [Colin] Hitchcock is a guy that can throw it or run it. You always gotta account for him.”

Longview understands that its defensive success will be key to slowing down a McKinney North team that has scored 272 points in seven games this season. Linebacker Ta’Darion Boone is one the leaders that the Lobos will continue to lean on because he has already produced 45 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, seven pass break-ups, four sacks, four interceptions, three defensive touchdowns, two fumble recoveries, one punt block, and one forced fumble in 2022.

He can’t do it alone though, and that’s where teammates Chase Smith, Omarion Watkins, and Daedrion Garrett can step in as additional disrupters for the Bulldogs’ scheme.

“I think it comes down to the defensive line,” King said of the key to keeping McKinney North in check this week. “Our defensive line last year didn’t play real well. Our secondary is going to have to leverage the run plays, as well as defend RPOs. Those guys are going to have to hold point.”

“Boone’s played well,” he added. “He’s a very distinctive and smart football player. He makes plays on defense and special teams. He’s got playmaking ability. He enables us to get more speed on the field.”

The Lobos are also confident in their offensive abilities, especially since that side is expected to be at full strength. They had to play without injured running backs Taylor Tatum and Alijah Johnson when they improved their season record to 7-0 and district mark to 4-0 during last week’s 42-19 road win against North Mesquite at Mesquite Memorial Stadium, but both players are on track to return to game action on Friday.

Their absences opened the door for multiple players to show off the amount of depth that Longview has on that side of the ball. Kelvin Washington was one of the players that made the most of his extra time on the field, and ultimately finished the night with 106 rushing yards, 70 receiving yards, three rushing touchdowns, and one receiving touchdown.

“He’ll have a role,” King said of Washington's spot in this week’s game plan. “We got depth at running back. AJ and Taylor are unique talents. Brandavion Steverson and Jose Soto [also] had big games last week.”

Longview is also confident in its quarterback under center. Senior Jordan Allen has already earned 1,140 passing yards, 115 rushing yards and 13 passing touchdowns this year, and also helped guide his team’s offensive unit while his teammates were out last week. That was evident when he overcame a slow start, and produced a four-for-five passing stretch and two touchdowns in the third quarter of the game.

“He pushed through it,” King said of Allen’s ability to bounce back from early adversity. “He got going in the second half, and had a couple touchdown throws.”

Follow Thomas Bingham on Twitter @Texan8thGen