A packed field of soccer teams will head to town today as the Lufkin Panther Showcase kicks off on John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium.
Four teams that advanced at least three rounds deep in last year’s playoffs highlight the field of teams making final preparations for district action.
In fact, seven of the eight teams represented at the event were in last year’s playoffs, an indication of the quality of competition that will be on display.
“We cut the number of teams at the tournament a few years ago,” Lufkin head coach David McPherson said. “With doing that, all of the teams here are going to have good quality and every game should be competitive. It’s what any coach would want to see to get ready for the playoffs.”
Lufkin finds itself in a unique position headed into this afternoon’s showcase opener.
The Panthers are actually playing for a tournament championship when they take on the Longview Lobos. However, it isn’t the Lufkin championship the Panthers are seeking.
The teams are playing for the Longview Lobo Invitational championship. They were originally scheduled to play on Saturday afternoon. However, with both teams already playing three games over the weekend, the coaches agreed to make today’s game for the tournament championship.
“I’m sure this is a first both for Lufkin and Longview,” McPherson said. “Both teams will have a little extra motivation to win this one. But honestly the main focus at this point of the year is more on getting better than getting wins. Hopefully we can do both.”
Both teams finished the Longview tournament with identical 2-0-1 records. They battled to a 2-2 tie in their head-to-head matchup in a game Lufkin trailed on two different occasions.
McPherson expects Lufkin to have its hands full once again this afternoon.
“They’ve got a high-pressure offense we have to be ready for,” McPherson said. “They’ll be a good challenge for us both offensively and defensively.”
Following today’s game, the Panthers are scheduled to face Mount Pleasant at 4 p.m. Friday before taking on Port Arthur Memorial at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.
All games are currently expected to be played at Abe Martin Stadium.
Other teams in the tournament are College Park, Tyler Lee, Nacogdoches, Port Arthur Memorial, Mount Pleasant and Jacksonville.
College Park was a state semifinalist last season, while Mount Pleasant was a regional finalist. Jacksonville was a regional semifinalist, and Lufkin made it three rounds deep. Tyler Lee, Longview and Port Arthur Memorial were also playoff teams last year.
“What we want at this point of the season is a challenge, and I think every team here is going to challenge themselves,” McPherson said. “We need to get all of the kinks worked out before district.”
Lufkin is entering the game on a hot streak. The Panthers went 3-0 in the Woodlands tournament before last week’s 2-0-1 showing, making them 5-0-1 on the season.
“Of course you always want to win,” McPherson said, “but it’s really about more than that at this point. We’re starting district soon and we need to make sure everyone has their right fit.”
Following is a schedule of this weekend’s games.
Thursday: Lufkin vs. Longview, 1 p.m.; Nacogdoches vs. Port Arthur Memorial, 2:30 p.m.; College Park vs. Tyler Lee, 4 p.m.; Mount Pleasant vs. Jacksonville, 5:30 p.m.
Friday: Tyler Lee vs. Nacogdoches, 1 p.m.; Longview vs. College Park, 2:30 p.m.; Mount Pleasant vs. Lufkin, 4 p.m.; Port Arthur Memorial vs. Jacksonville, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: Tyler Lee vs. Mount Pleasant, 9 a.m.; Lufkin vs. Port Arthur Memorial, 10:30 a.m.; Jacksonville vs. College Park, noon; Nacogdoches vs. Longview, 1:30 p.m.