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Longhorns have their eyes on a breakout season

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

The Lone Grove High School football team was in a good spot halfway through the 2019 season and appeared to be poised for a playoff run, but then the injury bug hit and things took a turn for the worse.  

“We were 5-0 last year and then we had eight kids get hurt — that really kind of put a damper on us,” said Longhorns head coach Brad O’Steen. “We went into the meat of our schedule and competed in every game. And we had a chance to win every game from there on out, but we were a little banged up. We really never truly got healthy.” 

Lone Grove may have ended 2019 with a sour taste in its mouth, but the Longhorns return a solid nucleus of athletes this season — highlighted by 13 seniors. 

However, O’Steen knows that group has to rise the challenge of being leaders. 

“The (seniors) are really good players and this and that, but it just depends on if they want to take the next step and lead us in the right direction of getting to the top,” O’Steen said. “The core group of them are really good and they have a lot of experience.” 

And the extra experience should help the Longhorns make strides in the right direction after winning just one of their final five games in 2019. 

“We expect to be better than (last year),” O’Steen said. “That’s the expectation right here. How much better, that’s to be determined. We think we have the  opportunity to be a lot better, so we’ll see."

And as is the case every year, O’Steen knows the No. 1 goal is to be a state champion. He also added that Lone Grove wants to win a district championship and advance to the playoffs, but that isn’t at the top of the list. 

“Those are the goals, but I guess the ultimate goal is to be the best we can be,” O’Steen said. “That’s our goal and wherever that is, is where it is.” 

The Longhorns know they can play the best they can, but it still doesn’t guarantee wins as they play in District 2-3A that features top-notch squads. 

“One thing about our district — if you like to compete, it’s a great district to play in because you have to show up every week,” O’Steen said. “That makes it fun. If you’re in some of these weaker districts, it’s not going to make you better. This district will make you better for the playoffs. We’re excited about the opportunity.” 

There will be a small difference from a year ago though — a few new faces in the district. Lone Grove has played Dickson and Madill in the past, but it will be facing unknowns in Kingston and Little Axe. That provides advantages and disadvantages, but one thing is clear — it’s going to be a competitive district.  

But first the Longhorns have to open the season on the road against Purcell at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28. Lone Grove doesn’t play its home opener until 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 18 when Comanche comes to town, but that isn’t necessarily the most important on the schedule.  

“There are some key games down the road, but we talk about those when we get to them,” O’Steen said.