In 19 days, the defending state champion Longview Lobos will head to Lufkin for one of the most highly anticipated games in the state.
On Monday afternoon, the Lufkin Panthers will take another step to what they hope is a memorable season of their own when they open workouts for the upcoming season.
Lufkin is coming off a 10-2 season and has plenty of reason for optimism thanks to a group that was hit hard by graduation but still has plenty of talent remaining.
They’ll hit the ground running on Monday afternoon.
“Everybody’s going to be fired up for the first day,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. “The key to it is how fired up you’re going to be on the third day when the new kind of wears off. We’ve got to work hard every chance we get.”
Lufkin lost its entire defensive line with Breylon Garcia and JaVasia Brunson both going to Nevada and Carl Williams signing close to home with SFA.
However, they have enough returning talent to make them the pick to win the district and be a threat to compete once the playoffs begin.
Wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk has committed to Texas Tech, and safety Jerrin Thompson is one of the top recruits in the state.
“Every year’s going to be different,” Quick said. “We’ve got high expectations here, and that’s the way we like it. With that being said, you aren’t getting anywhere without putting the work in.”
In a change of UIL rules this past offseason, coaches were allowed to have a limited time to work with players during the summer.
That work, in addition to the usual work in the weight room and on the track, could be vital for those who use it effectively.
Quick said he was pleased with the players’ attitudes during the offseason.
“We probably had the highest attendance we’ve had in a long time,” Quick said. “We had a great tempo and the kids really showed up. We’ve got a great group of seniors. They’re leaders and that’s a big key for how teams approach the offseason.”
Lufkin will start the week without pads before being able to work full-contact drills late in the week.
The Panthers will then have another week of workouts before traveling to Huntsville for a scrimmage on Aug. 23. The exact format for that scrimmage should be determined later this week.
“That’s something that’s always out there for the kids to look forward to,” Quick said. “They get excited to be out here, then they go against the same guys every day and get tired of that. Seeing some new faces is a good thing, and Huntsville has plenty of athletes.”
Lufkin’s season opener is set for Aug. 30 against Longview. In last season’s matchup, Lufkin held a late lead before dropping a 35-28 decision to the eventual Class 6A Division II state champions.
Kickoff for that game is set for 7:30 p.m.