An opening-night loss left the Lufkin Panthers hungry to find the win column when they headed to Nacogdoches on Friday night.
A hard-hitting defense wasn’t satisfied with a simple win. Instead they dominated from the opening kickoff to the final whistle in posting a shutout, the team’s third since the beginning of last season.
The team has shut out opponents in three of its last 12 games, the last of which was a 63-0 win over Caney Creek on Nov. 3.
This one had to feel even better for the Panthers. Even though Lufkin showed it can compete against one of the state’s elite teams the prior week, it is a program that doesn’t think much of moral victories.
Against an outmanned Nacogdoches team, the Panthers never gave the Dragons a chance.
While the defense was stifling, the offense held up its end of the bargain by taking advantage of short fields throughout the night.
That allowed the Panthers to methodically put the Dragons away even before the break.
The competition isn’t likely to be any better this week as the Panthers take on Redskins del Estado de Mexico.
It will be the final year of the contract between Lufkin and teams from Mexico, which originally started with Monterrey squads.
Lufkin took a 68-0 win in last season’s matchup, which was made up of “all-star” players from a group of teams.
Here is a look back at Friday’s win.
Defense: The Dragons’ 142 total yards didn’t quite tell the full story for the Panthers.
Only one of Nacogdoches’ 13 drives finished inside the Lufkin 45. That came when a 50-yard completion moved the Dragons to the Lufkin 25. Two plays later, Lufkin forced Nacogdoches into a quick throw, Jerrin Thompson perfectly read a pass and returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown.
That made the halftime score 31-0 and was a fitting conclusion to a half of domination.
Leading into the game, Lufkin’s emphasis was on stopping the Nacogdoches ground game. Considering the Panthers held Nacogdoches to a total of 21 yards on 35 carries, the Dragons never had a chance.
Lufkin was almost as good in its pass defense thanks in large part to a pass rush that didn’t give Nacogdoches an opportunity to find its receivers.
It’s hard to imagine Lufkin being presented with much of a challenge this week, although the Panthers would like to come up with another dominating showing before district starts.
Offense: Lufkin got off to somewhat of a slow start before finding its stride late in the first quarter.
The biggest positive for Lufkin was a solid night on the ground despite the absence of Caleb Berry, the team’s top running back who is expected to be out a few more weeks with an injury.
KeShawn Clark and A.J. Montgomery combined for 103 yards on the ground. That will be the type of team rushing attack the Panthers will need throughout the year.
The Panthers’ offensive line also looked better on Friday night, although it is still a work in progress.
Jordan Moore had a solid game as he threw for 132 yards through the air and added a few dynamic runs on his way to rushing for three touchdowns.
All that kept Ja’Lynn Polk from another 100-yard night was the blowout margin as he came out early with six receptions for 93 yards.
The Panthers’ biggest concern this week will be in making it through the final non-district game without sustaining any more injuries.
Special teams: The silent part of Lufkin’s domination was the special teams.
Lufkin was able to start in Nacogdoches territory for most of the night while also coming up with a big play of its own.
Jamorian Johnson also got on the scoreboard when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone.
Before also sitting out for most of the second half, Caleb Encarnacion did his job on kickoffs in pinning Nacogdoches deep in its own territory. He also made a 25-yard field goal and each of his three extra-point attempts.
Polk continued to be quite a weapon in the punt game where he averaged 44 yards on three attempts.