To characterize the Lufkin Panthers' offseason as unusual would be putting it mildly. Two days before Christmas, longtime Panthers coach John Outlaw passed away unexpectedly from an apparent heart attack.

It took the community a while to pick up the pieces following the loss of Outlaw, who in his 17 seasons in Lufkin compiled a 163-46-1 record and led the Panthers to the 2001 Class 5A Division II state championship.

Todd Quick, an assistant under Outlaw for 26 years, is in charge of moving the program forward.

The strengths of the 2012 Panthers appear to at receiver and defensive line.

Senior JaBryce Taylor (6-1, 180), who has committed to SMU, along with junior Jamal Jeffery (5-9, 170) and sophomore Terry Mark (6-2, 185) may be among the area's most productive trio of wideouts by the time the season's over.

The combination of senior defensive end Demontrai Lewis (6-3, 215) and senior defensive tackle D'vante Botley (6-4, 255) will be a challenge for any opposing offensive line to block.

Lufkin is breaking in a new quarterback in senior Tyler Stubblefield (6-5, 190), who's committed to play baseball for Texas A&M. So much of what the Panthers want to do on offense will depend on how well the new quarterback acclimates to Friday nights.

Another void to fill will be in the backfield. There is little experience returning at running back, but Quick has been lining Jeffery and fellow receiver Keke Coutee up in the backfield.

Lufkin will be tested right off the bat with its season opener Friday night at John Tyler, which is ranked No. 3 in Class 4A. The Panthers also face East Texas rivals Tyler Lee, Nacogdoches and Longview before beginning District 14-5A play at A&M Consolidated on Sept. 28.


5A/4A Countdown

No. 4: Sulphur Springs

No. 5: Tyler Lee

No. 6: Texas High

No. 7: Jacksonville

No. 8: Whitehouse

No. 9: Hallsville

No. 10: Lindale