The Dragons reeled off 33 unanswered points on their way to a 46-28 win over the Panthers in state semifinal action at SFA's Homer Bryce Stadium. It was the third time in four years that the Dragons have knocked the Panthers out of the playoffs in the state semifinals. The previous two years they went on to win the state title. "That team's where they're at for a reason, and they played a great game," Lufkin Head Coach John Outlaw said. "But hopefully we'll be back soon and we can get over that hump." The teams battled back and forth in the first half as Lufkin actually held a 20-13 lead midway through the second quarter. But Southlake Carroll scored the final 13 points of the first half and scored touchdowns on its first three drives of the second half to take control at 46-20. "We just didn't do anything right in the second half," Outlaw said. "I thought we outplayed them in the first half, but for whatever reason, we couldn't make any plays in the second half." Greg McElroy showed why he's a candidate to be the state's player of the year as he threw for 285 yards and three touchdowns on 17-of-29 passing. McKay Jacobson led Southlake Carroll's receiving corps with seven receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns, while Evan Fentriss also passed the 100-yard mark, making five receptions for 122 yards. "Playing against an offense like that, you really can't afford to make many mistakes," Outlaw said. "And we made too many mistakes today." Ralph Thomas did a good job in replacing Jeremy Claybon at quarterback, but Lufkin's passing game struggled in the second half. Thomas finished with 93 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-21 passing with one interception. He ran for 66 yards on 22 carries. "I think Ralph proved the type of athlete and the type of person he is today," Outlaw said. "He's not a quarterback. But he fought his heart out on the field for us today." Ja'Corey Turner had another big game for the Pack, finishing with 117 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Dez Bryant was Lufkin's top threat in the receiving department, making five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns. The game started on a high note for the Panthers as Southlake Carroll's first drive ended when A.J. Penson got to McElroy and stripped the ball. Robert Taylor recovered the fumble to give Lufkin the ball at the Dragon 38. Six plays later, Thomas hit Bryant on a fade pass from 13 yards out to put Lufkin on the board. The extra point was missed, leaving the score at 6-0. That lead didn't last long as McElroy hit Jacobson for a 31-yard score to give Southlake Carroll the lead at 7-6. Late in the first quarter, Lufkin took advantage of a shanked punt that gave it the ball at the Dragon 29. On the third drive of the following play, Thomas connected with Bryant on a 36-yard touchdown. The two-point try failed as Lufkin held a 12-7 lead. As they did for the entire game, the Dragons once again had the answer. Jacobson had catches of 28 and 36 yards to set up a Tre' Newton one-yard score. The extra point was blocked as Southlake Carroll led 13-12. Lufkin used some trickery to set up its next score. Facing a fourth and 4 at their own 44-yard line, the Panthers faked a punt with Clifton Kibble running 29 yards. Three plays later, Turner scored from 13 yards out and E.J. Shankle caught a pass from Thomas to give Lufkin its final lead at 20-13. The Dragons had a quick answer this time as they used a halfback pass with Riley Dodge hitting a wide open Fentriss to tie the game at 20. One of the turning points in the game came near the end of the first half. With Lufkin driving, a long Bryant catch was called back due to an offensive pass interference. On the next play, Southlake Carroll's Trey Reece intercepted a tipped pass. Three plays later, Jacobson caught a 24-yard touchdown to send the Dragons into the break with a 26-20 lead. At the beginning of the second half, the Panthers dipped back into their bag of trips as they faked a punt with Leonard Hewitt getting the toss on a reverse. However, a shoestring tackle stopped him short of the first down, giving Southlake Carroll good field position once again. The Dragons took advantage as Corbin Smither caught a 26-yard touchdown pass that brought the lead to 32-20. That's when Southlake Carroll started to pull away. After a Lufin punt, Southlake Carroll drove 70 yards on six plays with McElroy running in from two yards out for a 39-20 lead. The Dragons added to that lead on a 14-yard touchdown run from Newton before Thomas scored on a 7-yard run to close out the scoring. The Panthers finish their season with a 14-1 record, while the Dragons (15-0) will play Katy for the state title on Saturday at noon at Texas Stadium.

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