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Longhorns set to clash with Pauls Valley in district opener

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

Many squads face the decision of whether to play the best athletes or cycle a number of substitutes throughout a game. It’ll be an easy choice for the Lone Grove High School football team this week as district play kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25 on the road against Pauls Valley.

“Our guys have to go play,” said Longhorns head coach Brad O’Steen. “We need to have our best players on the field at all times. We have to go lay it on the line. It’s district, so there’s no slip-ups. You can’t slip up unless somebody beats you. If you want to be a district champion, you have to go win every week.”

Lone Grove enters the meat of its schedule in decent shape with a 2-1 record after cruising to a 50-12 victory last week over Comanche. But that doesn’t mean the Longhorns played a mistake-free game.

“We didn’t play really well in spots and didn’t play really well at times,” O’Steen said. “We just have to work on getting better at our weaknesses and fine-tuning the small details.”

The Longhorns line up for a play last week against Comanche. Lone Grove looks to carry over its defensive success from last week against district foe Pauls Valley.

That will be crucial as Pauls Valley runs an offense where one minor mistake could cost a defense six points. And the Panthers have already shown they can score, putting up at least 28 points in their last two wins.

“We’re really having to focus in on the function of the wishbone (offense) — being able to handle the dive, the quarterback and the pitch man,” O’Steen said. “We have to focus on our keys and make sure we play assignment football.”

The Longhorns did that last season when they cruised to a 54-21 victory, but they lost 36-22 the year before.

“It’s been a pretty close battle the last two years,” O’Steen said.

However, it does help that Lone Grove knows exactly what it is facing Friday night — a team that will continue to run the ball no matter what.

“Pauls Valley plays a different type of football – it’s more of a ground and pound you,” O’Steen said. “We have to match the physicalness up front and play really well on the defensive and offensive line.”

And the Longhorns need their offensive line to step up to allow time to complete a pass or run the ball. Last week it was all about the passing attack as senior quarterback Jace Brandenburg threw for five touchdowns to four different receivers.

But this week could be different based on Pauls Valley’s game plan.

“Sometimes the passing game is there and sometimes the run game is there,” O’Steen said. “It’s just kind of what they want to take away. If they’re going to take away the run, then we’re going to throw the ball. If they’re going to take away the pass, we’re going to run the football. We’re just going to take what the defense gives us.”