Defense Dominates Early, But Offense Strikes Late in Lufkin’s Spring Football Game
LUFKIN -- Thursday evening's Purple and White Game was defense early, offense late for the Lufkin Panthers.
The purple-clad defense held Lufkin's white-wearing offense scoreless for the first 46 plays, but the offense scored three touchdowns in the final 21 plays to finish on a high note in the Panthers' annual spring game held at John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium.
Lufkin's defense got strong performances from players such as 2014 linebacker DeAngelo Hightower and 2014 free safety Michael Farley, who repeatedly came up from the secondary in run support. Ten different players were in on tackles for loss.
Lufkin's offense did not score in the first two 15-minute running-clock periods. In that span, the defense held the offense to 137 yards on 44 plays, an average of 3.1 yards per play. The first-team offense gained 117 yards on 32 plays for a slightly better 3.7 yards per play.
Senior-to-be linebacker Daryien Driver had two tackles for loss, while classmate and defensive end Jordan Buckley had one tackle for loss and a forced fumble. Junior-to-be linebacker Jacob Mark had one tackle for loss and broke up a pass, while 2015 cornerback Zach Thompson had an interception during second-team action.
Lufkin head coach Todd Quick praised his defense's tackling.
"That's a huge key is to finish the play. You can fight your butt off to get to the point of attack, but if you don't make a tackle, it doesn't mean anything," Quick said. "There weren't a lot of crushing blows, but we got people on the ground, and those guys are tough to tackle. They've got some wiggle. I thought they got their shoulders squared up, their butt down, and in a good football stance and made plays."
After a 10-minute intermission, Lufkin's offense came out firing. New starting quarterback Trey Cumbie showed poise and efficiency, even during the scoreless opening periods.
The 6-foot-2, 189-pound left-hander completed 16 of 24 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns, including a 64-yard play-action touchdown strike to 2014 receiver and Texas A&M pledge Jamal Jeffery on the third play of the final period, which was 12 minutes. Cumbie took a shot from Hightower on a delayed linebacker blitz right after releasing the ball, which Jeffery settled under down the right hash after beating the secondary. Jeffery sprinted the final 25 or so yards for the score.
"I think just getting chemistry together in a game-like situation is really what got us going at the end of the game," Cumbie said.
Three plays later, Cumbie completed a 49-yard pass down the far sideline to highly-touted 2015 athlete recruit Key'Vantanie "KeKe" Coutee in double coverage, which set up a five-yard touchdown strike to Coutee two plays later. Coutee, who holds offers from Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech, caught a game-high eight passes for 107 yards. Jeffery snared five catches for 97 yards as the playmaking duo that combined for 100 catches for 1,766 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012 accounted for all but 15 of Cumbie's passing yards Thursday evening.
"It's a blessing to have two people like that," Cumbie said of Jeffery and Coutee. "Get it out to them quick and let them go."
Quick was encouraged by what he saw from his new quarterback, who is replacing 6-foot-4 Texas A&M baseball signee Tyler Stubblefield, a 3,582-yard passer who accounted for 48 total touchdowns in 2012.
"(Cumbie) made a huge improvement from Day 1 to where he is now. He backed up Stubblefield all year, didn't get to take a lot of reps, then went to baseball, so he's been out of sight since January," Quick said. "He shows up the first day of spring ball and looks pretty good, looks like he did at the end of the season, so we were real happy with that.
"For the most part he gave us an opportunity to catch the football. There were some dropped balls in there, too. I thought he ran the offense well, he made the checks, he got people lined up, they knew what to do, and it was a smooth thing."
Even when Lufkin's first-team offense clicked through the air, the defense remained stingy against the run. First-team running backs finished with 52 yards on 15 rushes.
Junior-to-be running back Demarrie Dukes scored on a 63-yard touchdown run near the end of the game during second-team action. Other than that run, Lufkin's first and second-team defenses yielded 66 yards on 29 rushes.
Second-team quarterback Haylen Green, a sophomore-to-be, completed his final five passes to finish 6-for-9 for 60 yards and one interception. First-team 2015 tailback Steven Sowell had 32 yards on eight carries, while second-team 2014 receiver Arien Harrison caught four passes for 45 yards to account for 75 percent of Green's passing yards.