THE WOLF PACK IS BACK
The Lobo football team winning State Championship and the Lobo Band aka The Big Green Marching Machine nabbing 69 consecutive first place wins resulted in January 19 proclaimed as Lobo Nation Day
By Kelly Bell and Joycelyne Fadojutimi
It has been a long time since 1937. That was the year the Longview High School Lobos won state in football. Franklin D. Roosevelt was U.S. President, there was a grinding economic depression, and a menacing fascist movement was gaining momentum in Germany as Adolf Hitler feverishly rearmed that resentful country. Gasoline cost ten cents per gallon. A loaf of unsliced bread was nine cents. The average price of a brand-new car was $760. Few had ever heard of a place called Pearl Harbor. For some in East Texas, however, all this seemed distant and not particularly interesting that autumn. The Lobos gave their fans and city the best Christmas present they had ever had, defeating the Wichita Falls Coyotes 19-12 before 18,000 fans in the Dallas Cotton Bowl. This was more rooters than had attended the first-ever, collegiate Cotton Bowl game twelve months earlier when Texas Christian University played Marquette. It was a rare, Depression-era bright spot for East Texans as Longview head football coach Pete Shotwell led his men to the mastery. When he passed on 44 years later, his former team had not made it back to the top. Charlie LeBus is the son of the late Frank LeBus, who quarterbacked that stellar 1937 offense.
“His kids loved him without question,” said Charlie. “He was a good man, just a good man and lived life with honor. He even opened a boys camp.”
Shotwell compiled a sparkling record of 255-92-18 as a high school coach before moving on to the college ranks, directing football at Sul Ross State and Hardin-Simmons University. He won high school championships before coming to Longview, winning crowns in Abilene in 1923 and Breckenridge in 1929. Much in the mold of legendary coach Vince Lombardi, he was a hardscrabble, blue-collar taskmaster who “whipped his boys into a machine” while simultaneously managing to be a true player’s coach who saw to his athletes’ every need on and off the field. He took Longview to the top in just his third year there.
“Eighty-one years. I’ve still got my grandmother’s ticket from that game,” says Charlie LeBus.
Some players on that 1937 team saw combat in World War II. Dick Miller and Chad Daniel were both killed in action. Don Fambrough survived the war and returned to football, coaching the University of Kansas Jayhawks from 1971 to 1982. Still, for all involved, that 1937 season was a tough act to follow.
The Lobos opened that with a 25-0 pasting of North Dallas, and then nosed out the Masonic Home of Fort Worth 13-12. Next came a 19-12 decision over Port Arthur followed by a 31-7 humbling of McKinney. District play commenced as Longview pummeled the Kilgore Bulldogs 48-0. A week later came a 26-0 win over the Texas High Tigers going into bye week. Two weeks later and refreshed, Longview rolled over Dallas Sunset 32-7, followed by a 27-7 win over the archrival Tyler Lions. Longview closed out the regular season on Veterans Day by beating the Marshall Mavericks 19-8. It was time for the playoffs.
The Lobos sewed up the Division 9A title by blowing out Gladewater 57-12, and then bested Lufkin 19-0 in the bi-district round. Longview next topped Temple 19-12 in the quarterfinals before blanking Conroe 34-0 a week later in the semifinals. It was the team’s fifth shutout that year. The Longview High School Lobos howled all the way down Highway 80 to the shiny new Cotton Bowl.
The young men from Longview had not always had it easy that season. Three times they came from behind to win, and the Wichita Falls gridders would give them all they could handle. The Lobos fell behind 12-0 in the first quarter but return man Dick Miller, returned a second period punt 55 yards for a touchdown as the score was 12-7 at intermission. Coach Shotwell’s defense had already got the message, holding Wichita Falls scoreless in the second, third and fourth quarters. LeBus hit Miller for a 53-yard touchdown pass in the fourth and running back Raymond Cantrell powered in a two-yard scoring run minutes later for the final margin of 28-12. For the Lobos, it was a short bus ride home.
Eighty-one years later, 68-year-old Charlie LeBus was misty-eyed as he prepared to attend the team’s next championship appearance.
“I’d say dad and the entire ’37 team will have a seat on the front row Saturday,” he said.
As that Saturday approached, former Longview head football coach Robert Bero visited current coach John King and gave him a gift. It was an aged, cracked leather football lapel with ’37 stamped on it. Some fan or cheerleader had worn it to the title test 81 years earlier. King was too concerned about losing this priceless memento to carry it with him during the game at the Dallas Cowboys’ home field of AT&T Stadium, so he pinned it to his duffel bag and secured it in his locker before the game. Later he displayed it happily and proudly.
“Guys like Robert Bero and others who have been part of this program since Longview High School integrated, this is important for all of those guys,” said an emotional King after the game. “They know what this program means to the town of Longview, and how special it is.”
High hopes had been dashed before. The Lobos came close to the mastery in 2008, 2009 and 2010, but stumbled at the finish line each time. In 2018 a last-second blocked punt made the difference in a fourth quarter for the ages.
Playing the West Brook (Beaumont) Bruins, Longview faced a third-and-goal at the eleven-yard-line, but junior quarterback (and coach’s son) Haynes King overthrew a wide-open receiver Jhailon Braden in the end zone, forcing the Lobos to settle for a field goal and leaving West Brook leading 34-29 with 8:17 remaining. With a throng of 48,421 fans fusing into a single entity of shrieking enthusiasm the Longview defense forced a three-and-out.
On the ensuing second down King, redeemed himself via a 54-yard completion that led to Jesse Anderson’s two-yard scoring run and a 35-34 lead the Longview defense protected to the end. After the game, quarterback Haynes explained why he never doubted his team’s ability to pull out this barn-burner.
“(Running backs) coach (Oscar) Wilson talks with me every day before every game, and our motto is ‘Whatever it takes.'” Haynes said. “Four quarters wasn’t up. You just have to keep making plays and keep grinding it out.”
Despite the free-scoring nature of this particular game it was the Longview defense that made the final difference. Tyshawn Taylor jarred the ball loose from Bruin Robert McGrue, and Michael Martin recovered the fumble. Moments later Kellyn Williams got loose on a 31-yard run, forcing West Brook to use all its times out while the Lobos ran out the clock.
Haynes King earned Offensive MVP honors by completing sixteen of twenty-seven pass attempts for a whopping 423 yards and two touchdowns. Kamden Perry snagged eight of those throws for 218 yards and a score. Jephaniah Lister recorded a game-high twelve tackles to win Defensive MVP honors.
“These kids don’t like losing,” coach King said after the game. “They love winning, but they hate losing more than they like winning. They’ve been that way since I’ve known them, and they rally one another.”
John and Haynes were not the only father-son duo in attendance, either.
After the final whistle, senior linebacker Ja’Vontae Writt’s father sought him out on the field and wrapped his boy in an emotional bear hug.
“We were both in tears,” said Ja’Vontae. “It was a long hug. He raised me into the person I am now, and I am thankful for that. They didn’t win it, but because of him we are here, and we won. We won for him. I won for him. We got it.”
Coach King described how the title game meant so much not only to him, his coaches and players, but to the entire city of Longview. It put a crown on his position in his dream job, but something he did not really expect when he commenced his career in athletics.
“Let me tell you what my daddy told me my first year of coaching. He told me, ‘Son, you need to find some place to call home,'” he said. “And I thought, ‘Nah, I want to be a head coach. I’m gonna bounce around and do this and that.’ I hadn’t been in Longview but about a month, and I knew that’s where I wanted to call home.”
He and Longview High School turned out to be a perfect match.
“There ain’t another job that I want. There’re no other kids I want to coach [other] than those tough-ass kids in Longview, Texas. I love ’em. I love what they’re about,” he said while choking back tears in the postgame press conference. “We’ve got a lot of diversity on our football team. We’ve got rich ones, poor ones, black ones, white ones, Hispanics. We got it all. And they walk through that field house and they bleed green. They walk out of that field house and these dudes will bleed green the rest of their lives. That’s home. I’m proud to say that Longview, Texas is my home. When we get back to Gregg County it’s gonna be a party like they ain’t never seen, and I may be leading the charge.”
Coach King is directing a football program with a long and respectable history of sending players on to greater athletic accomplishments. Starting in 1951 when former Lobo defensive tackle Bobby Collier signed with the Los Angeles Rams, Longview High School has produced 22 National Football League players. Following the 1971 season one-time Longview placekicker Mike Clark earned a Super Bowl ring as a Dallas Cowboy. Three Longview players are currently active.
Running back Chris Ivory is playing for the Buffalo Bills. He previously spent time as a New Orleans Saint, New York Jet and Jacksonville, Jaguar. Offensive tackle Trent Williams and linebacker Pete Robertson are Washington Redskins.
East Texas has a long love affair with football. In none of this region’s cities does this passion ever die. For Longview, it has lasted 81 years.