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Longhorns back in the playoffs for 1st time since 2015

Beau Bearden

This year’s Lone Grove High School football team has one important similarity with the 2015 squad – both advanced to the playoffs.

The previous group made it to the semifinals of the 3A State Playoffs and the Longhorns look for similar success when they host Mount St. Mary Catholic in the play-in round at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13.

“It’s been five years since Lone Grove has been in the playoffs, so it’s a good opportunity for these kids to get the experience,” said Longhorns head coach Brad O’Steen. “When you get in and start playing well and get hot, we can make a run. We plan on playing football for a while.”

Lone Grove finished the regular 7-3 overall and 5-2 in District 3A-2. That mark matches the Longhorns’ seven wins in 2015 and puts them in a good spot in the bracket.

However, the Longhorns know everyone is on level playing field in the playoffs.

“Everything is reset and if you want to win a state title, you have to beat everybody,” O’Steen said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we have to win. Getting this experience is going to be crucial for the future, but our future is now. We feel like we can play with anybody in the state when we play well. We just have to go out and do it.”

And Lone Grove will have to do it against a Mount St. Mary squad that may be better than its record. The Rockets finished the regular season 4-3 overall and 0-3 in District 3A-1, but the Longhorns aren’t overlooking them.

“They have several skill kids who are really good,” O’Steen said. “Their big on the offensive and defensive line and they had a really good quarterback.”

But there’s no way Mount St. Mary has anyone as talented as Sulphur’s running back Logan Smith. Lone Grove had to test its skills against the senior last week and put up a valiant effort in a 41-32 loss.

“(Smith) is probably one of the best running backs in the state,” O’Steen said. “He’s a big back and he runs really hard. He’s a really good player. But we were proud of our kids’ effort, physicality and those types of things. We just have to get better from it. We just came up a little short against a good, high-quality ball club.”

The Longhorns won’t have to see Sulphur again until the Class 3A State Championship as both squads are on opposite sides of the bracket.

However, Lone Grove’s focus is on the first game and that’s against the Rockets.

“We just try to teach our guys not to look too far ahead,” O’Steen said. “It’s easy to look at the bracket and all of that type of stuff, but as long as the kids are focused on Mount St. Mary. That’s the task at hand this week. If we don’t handle this week, there’s no tomorrow. The mentality going into every practice and every game is ‘there’s no tomorrow.’ So we have to earn it.”