The 8th-ranked (Class 5A DI) Lufkin Panthers gave the defending Class 6A state champion Longview Lobos all they could handle a week ago, falling by just three points. The Pack came to Dragon Stadium to renew the rivalry that is over 100 games rich and used excellent field position, turned two turnovers directly into touchdowns and took down the Nacogdoches Dragons 44-0 Friday night.
The loss was the second straight for the Dragons (0-2), but was a much more difficult pill to swallow for head coach Darren Allman, his staff and players than their 17-14 loss to Kilgore during Week 1 last Friday.
Allman said after the game he hasn’t experienced losses like the one to Lufkin (1-1) very often, and takes responsibility for not having his team better prepared. He promises that his Dragons will get better with the start of the District 9-5A DII just two weeks away.
“I take responsibility for the performance of our players and team tonight, and the rest of the coaches feel the same way,” Allman said after the game. “This team is a reflection on me and the staff and our ability to prepare them.
“With due respect to Lufkin, who has a great and well-coached team, we should never be handed a loss like that to anyone in any classification. So, as we evaluate the game and the players, myself and the coaches will be equally critical of ourselves.”
Lufkin built a 31-0 lead at the half by scoring 24 second-quarter points, taking advantage of excellent field position all night long. Four of the Panthers’ scoring drives in the first half started in Nacogdoches’ end of the field, as they drove 36 (TD), 40 (FG), 34 (TD) and 48 (TD) yards in their scoring drives and then added a 79-yard pick-six with 2:19 left in the half to open the comfortable lead.
“I didn’t sugar-coat anything with the team (after the game) and told them it’s unacceptable the way we played,” Allman added. “The great thing about where we’re at now is that this kind of game will help us find out a lot about our players and who can play in an atmosphere like this against a good team and be level-headed and do their assignments and not get caught up in the moment and forget everything.
“There were several people that did play well and kept fighting while they were in the game and we’re going to take a good look at them in practice this next week.”
Having excellent field position meant the Panthers didn’t have to pile up a lot of yardage in the contest. Lufkin had a balanced attack with 163 yards on the ground and 132 more through the air for 295 yards of total offense.
The Lufkin defense held Nacogdoches to another sub-par ground attack. After picking up only 70 yards against Kilgore a week ago, the Dragons were held to only 21 yards on 35 running plays against LHS. Dragon quarterbacks combined to throw for 121 yards, leaving the Dragons with only 142 yards all night.
The Panthers also turned a pair of turnovers into 14 points. In addition to the interception return for the score, they blocked a punt in the third quarter and pounced on it for a touchdown.
A.J. Montgomery led the Lufkin ground attack with 58 yards and a score on nine carries, while KeShawn Clark added 55 on 10 runs. Jordan Moore completed 13-of-19 passes for 132 yards for the Pack, while JaLynn Polk led all Lufkin receivers with six catches for 93 yards.
Camorian Thacker was the leading Nacogdoches runner with 21 yards on 12 carries. Jake Smith completed 10-of-16 passes for 102 yards, but suffered one interception. Jatavious Deckard was the leading receiver in the game, as the Dragon hauled in seven passes for 85 yards. Zay Floyd pulled in three for 10 yards.
Nacogdoches will return to action next Saturday when they travel to Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler to battle Robert E. Lee High School in a 7 p.m. non-district matchup.