By Brian Besch
Though taking a fourth loss in four games, Livingston football’s coaching staff is looking for a repeat performance from Friday night. The Lions were a first down away from gaining control over undefeated Spring Legacy, in what would have been one of the state’s bigger upsets.
“The kids are the most resilient, no matter what is being said around town or by classmates or wherever,” Livingston coach Finis Vanover said. “They just keep believing. Last week was the best Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday we’ve had in a row since Aug. 1 when we first started. We couldn’t close the deal, but there was no lack of effort, heart, character, toughness or desire. Our kids played their butts off in the face of a mismatch of team talent.”
The Lions ran for over 300 yards, with the offensive line paving the way. Vanover said he would liked to have thrown the ball a bit more in the game (only 15 passing yards), but five or six of the called passing plays ended as desperation runs.
“The five significant players that were all out with injuries on the sidelines sure doesn’t help,” he said. “Two of the five are two-way performers. Our injured players that could not perform and help out was the biggest disappointment of the week. The cats that dressed out and played, played their butts off. Our offensive line is unbelievable, and the defensive line finally started cooking it up and we got after that quarterback and those running backs.”
The tailbacks, wide receivers and fullbacks also earned Vanover’s praise. The coach hopes to continue running effectively while sprinkling in yards through the air.
Junior Javion Haynes has been a standout in the defensive backfield, turning in a fine performance against one of the better passing attacks the Lions will see.
“He has turned into one of the best defensive backs in the district. He goes wide open and just plays the next down,” Vanover said of Haynes. “He is always involved in some kind of takeaway or turnover. He makes tackles like crazy, and they threw that slip screen one time where everybody got snookered except him.”
This will be the fourth consecutive homecoming game versus Madisonville. Coach Russell Urbantke has promised he would not schedule the Lions again if Livingston is successful a fourth time. The contests have been close, but Livingston has taken the last three by a difference of five, 10 and 12 points. The 2022 game was a 21-9 score in Madisonville.
“It is a great atmosphere and a great facility and great competition,” Vanover said of when the team travels down I-45. “They have kids just like we do, their folks turn out, and it is a nice deal. I am going to try to keep it whether we win, lose or draw.”
The Mustangs are undefeated through four games, taking down Diboll and Navasota by 10 points each, beating Fairfield 40-14 and dismantling Caldwell 63-0.
“Madisonville always plays great defense with textbook tackling. You can’t get them out of position. Their linebackers are always really tough, physical kids that come downhill fast once they read their key. We’ve got to get outside with the ball and over the top with the ball. If we can do that, we will be in great shape
They are going to defend the run game, which any intelligent coach would do. They have to, because right now, it is the only thing we are doing well. These guys knew we were going to last year, and we shamed them running the ball. What made the big difference was that we had some explosive plays in the passing game and in quarterback scrambles.”
Expect to see a spread offense from the Mustangs who are running more four wide receivers than before.
Last week, quarterback Ty Williams was 7-for-7 passing for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Star receiver and Texas Tech commit Lorenzo Johnson had three receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns. The Mustangs rolled up 229 yards rushing versus Caldwell, and the defense held the Hornets to just 23 total yards for the night in a 63-point blowout.
Livingston will need an effort similar to last week to hand Madisonville their first loss of the year.
“We will be a drastically improved team this week because of how hard we fought and played and tried to win that thing (last week), and didn’t make any excuses for it. That is what I am excited about. I think our kids are ready and understand how good they can really be.”