After watching his team win two games all of last season, Little Elm head football coach Kendrick Brown stressed to his Lobos all of last week on the importance of finishing non-district play on a positive note.
And that they did.
It took one half for the Lobos to find traction on both sides of the ball, but once they did, Little Elm was firing on all cylinders.
Junior defensive back Chase Davis returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and the Lobos scored at least a field goal on eight of their final nine drives to cruise to a 57-21 victory over Keller Fossil Ridge at Little Elm ISD Athletic Complex on Friday night.
With the win, Little Elm will start the season 4-0 for the first time since 2007. Fossil Ridge dropped to 2-2.
Little Elm outscored Fossil Ridge 54-14 after the Panthers held a 7-3 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“It’s really great to go into district play 4-0,” Brown said. “If you look at that first part of the season, it was a strong finish tonight, playing against a solid Keller Fossil Ridge team. That was our challenge. We wanted to finish off the preseason strong. It was a great second half from both our offensive and defensive units.”
One week after Little Elm senior quarterback John Mateer threw for four touchdowns and 290 yards to help the Lobos erase an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit in a 35-31 win against Plano West, it was the running game that got the job done for the home team on Friday.
Little Elm rushed for 413 yards as a team with senior Jalen Sessions, sophomore Semaj Ellis Jordan and Mateer all going over the 80-yard mark. Sessions carried just eight times but tallied 124 yards with three touchdowns. Jordan Ellis totaled 110 yards on 10 carries with a score. Mateer went for 81 yards on six totes.
“We want to be very diverse on offense,” Brown said. “I don’t know if that was really by design. I think it was more of what they were giving us.”
But for all of the success that Little Elm had running the ball, the Lobos had to overcome a spirited effort in the first half by Fossil Ridge junior Landen Chambers. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound tailback used his strength to use advantage, breaking off several long runs while also forcing several missed tackles.
Chambers had touchdown runs of 21 and 1 yards with the latter tying the score at 14-14 with 1:27 remaining in the first half. He finished the game with 157 yards on 24 carries. Chambers’ first carry of the ballgame was a 29-yard burst that helped the Panthers to get off their own goal line after Lobo senior Dylan Evans hustled to down a punt at the 1-yard line.
Little Elm had every answer, though.
After the first drive of the game for the Lobos stalled at the Panthers’ 38-yard line, Little Elm went with a more up-tempo approach on offense. The Lobos were quick to snap the ball, using six seconds or less of the play clock on several plays to get the ball to Mateer.
Little Elm senior Tyson Bope kicked a pair of 35-yard field goals and Sessions ran for a 70-yard touchdown as the Lobos rallied for a 14-7 lead.
Chambers answered with a 1-yard touchdown run to knot the score at 14-14 with 1:27 left in the second quarter. A 23-yard pass play between Panther sophomore quarterback Logan Cundiff and sophomore wide receiver Cooper Leonard on a fourth-and-six play set up the score.
But Mateer needed just two plays to navigate the Lobos to the go-ahead touchdown.
On the first play of the ensuing possession, Mateer ran for 23 yards, and on the very next play, he scrambled to his left to avoid pressure by the Panther defense and threw a jump ball near the goal line. Senior Vashawn Thomas came back to the ball and hauled in the catch to complete the 29-yard touchdown pass for a 21-14 Little Elm lead.
The Lobo defense helped to add to that advantage in the third quarter. Davis was gifted with a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown on a play in which Panther sophomore quarterback Logan Cundiff had miscommunication with a wide receiver.
Davis’ pick-six increased Little Elm’s lead to 28-14.
“The challenge in the second half when we came out defensively was that we want our defense to set the tone,” Brown said. “We knew that we were kicking off to them and we wanted our defense to establish some physicality. We were able to do that with the pick-six, and from there, the offense fed off that and the defense played with more enthusiasm and it really helped.”
It was all Lobos from there on out.
Little Elm received touchdown runs of 1 and 17 yards by Sessions in the second half, as well as an 18-yard passing play from Mateer to senior Cameran Taylor-Butler and a 16-yard run by Ellis Jordan.
Little Elm will open District 5-6A play next Friday at Prosper. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Children’s Health Stadium.