When Lufkin visited College Station a season ago, the Panthers put the kind of loss on the Cougars that stung the 2017 Class 5A Division II state champions.
When College Station came looking for retribution, the Panthers were ready. After College Station pulled within three points late in the third quarter, the Cougars seemed to be only a few plays away from some revenge.
Instead it was the Panthers who had the final say as a dominating final quarter proved the difference in a 31-21 decision at John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium.
“That team is well coached and they came here expecting to win,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. “You’ve got to beat teams like that, and we finished the game the way good teams are supposed to finish it.”
With the win, Lufkin pulled a game ahead of both College Station and Magnolia in the district standings. Magnolia West, which visits Lufkin in two weeks, is tied with the Panthers atop 8-5A DI.
Lufkin stands atop the district after another impressive showing against what was considered its top competition for the district title.
On the offensive side, Jordan Moore just missed on another 300-yard game as he finished with 286 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-24 passing. Ja’Lynn Polk hauled in nine passes for 147 yards and Kelton Wright caught eight passes for 120 yards and a score.
Meanwhile, Caleb Berry finished with 69 yards on 15 carries with most of his powerful running coming when Lufkin put the game away late.
“We did a lot of good things on the offensive side of the ball,” Quick said. “But what I was most pleased with was how Caleb and the offensive line finished the game. You have to finish the game like that against good teams.”
Meanwhile, Lufkin’s defense was stellar once again as it held College Station under 300 yards.
Roderick Brown ran for 159 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Austin Sosa completed 10-of-13 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, all in the second half.
“We missed a few tackles on defense, but we came up with a bunch of plays,” Quick said. “We made plays in all three phases of the game, especially at the end. This was a good win, and we’ll get right back to work (this morning) to build on it.”
For the second straight week, the Panthers controlled the flow of the game throughout the first half.
Behind another big half from Moore and the Lufkin defense, the Panthers built a two-score lead.
After forcing a stop on the first drive of the game, Christian Reggie gave the Panthers a short field with a 26-yard punt return. Lufkin took advantage with KeShawn Clark scoring on a 2-yard run that made it 7-0.
The Panthers’ defense came up with the next big play as Tre Odom intercepted a tipped pass, giving the Panthers the ball at the College Station 39.
Clark once again cashed in the opportunity, scoring on a 4-yard run that upped the lead to 14-0.
College Station finally broke its scoreless drought four minutes into the second quarter as Brown took a handoff on a third and 8 and went untouched for 46 yards, cutting the lead in half at 14-7.
The Panthers moved deep into College Station territory on the following drive only to lose a total of 20 yards on back-to-back plays. However, on a third and 30, Ja’Lynn Polk made a nice 27-yard pass that set up a 23-yard Caleb Encarnacion field goal that made it a two-score game at 17-7.
The Cougars drove past midfield on the last drive of the first half only to be turned away on a fourth down.
Brown carried for 143 yards on 23 carries in the first half.
Meanwhile, Moore threw for 137 yards on 11-of-13 passing in the first half.
With the defenses controlling most of the third quarter, College Station finally pulled closer in the final minute of the frame with Austin Thomas catching a 39-yard pass from Austin Sosa before Sosa scored from three yards out on the next play. That made the score 17-14 with 37 seconds left in the third quarter.
After being held without a touchdown for 29 minutes, the College Station score seemed to wake up the Panthers with Moore hitting Wright in stride for a 39-yard touchdown that made it 24-14 with 10:30 remaining.
The Panthers finally delivered the knockout blow with 5:16 remaining when Moore snuck into the end zone from a yard out, upping the lead to 31-14.
College Station got one final touchdown as Sosa hit Thomas for a 10-yard score that made it 31-21 with 2:38 remaining.
Lufkin (5-1, 3-0) returns to action on Friday night when it travels to Tomball.