Longtime Rivals Lufkin + John Tyler Square Off With Big 16-5A Implications At Stake
No. 10 Lufkin Panthers (3-2, 1-1)
No. 5 John Tyler Lions (4-1, 2-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday
TMF Rose Stadium, Tyler
- Lufkin: Todd Quick
- John Tyler: Ricklan Holmes
- Lufkin: at Lindale, Oct. 17
- John Tyler: at Ennis, Oct. 17
- WR KeKe Coutee, Sr., 5-10, 170 (31 catches, 420 yards, 4 TDs; 4 carries, 19 yards; 5 kickoff returns for 25.4 avg.; 6 punt returns for 34.2 avg., 2 TDs)
- OL Erik McCoy, Sr., 6-4, 290
- WR Terry Mark, Sr., 6-2, 180 (22 catches, 331 yards, 6 TDs; committed to Houston)
- LB Bronson Massie, Jr., 6-3, 210
- RB Steven Sowell, Sr., 5-9, 170 (110 carries, 788 yards, 10 TDs; 9 catches, 81 yards)
- QB Trey Cumbie, Sr., 6-2, 195 (72 of 101, 928 yards, 13 TDs, 2 INTs; 20 carries, 55 yards, TD)
- DL Tyrique Spencer, Sr., 6-2, 240
- RB Blake Johnosn, Sr., 5-10, 180 (5 carries, 66 yards, TD; 4 catches, 27 yards, TD)
- LB Jacob Mark, Sr., 6-1, 200
- FS Myster Calloway, Sr., 6-3, 185
- CB Isaac Warren, Sr., 6-1, 190 (21 tackles, INT, fumble recovery, defensive TD; committed to Purdue)
- DT Braylon Jones, Jr., 6-4, 295 (23 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 QB pressures)
- WR Rodney Bendy, Sr., 6-5, 200 (10 catches, 158 yards, 2 TDs; committed to North Texas)
- QB Geovari McCollister, Sr., 6-3, 205 (66 of 100, 1,053 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs; 44 carries, 184 yards, TD; committed to Central Arkansas)
- WR Nick Cain, Sr., 5-11, 175 (16 catches, 227 yards, 3 TDs; 2 carries, 10 yards, 2 TDs; committed to ULM)
- RB Jeremy Wilson, Sr., 5-9, 170 (61 carries, 542 yards, 10 TDs; 9 catches, 74 yards, TD)
- DE Jassavia Reese, Sr., 6-5, 230 (19 tackles, 6 for loss, 4 sacks, PBU)
- LB Jaylon Reese, Sr., 6-1, 225 (37 tackles, INT, defensive TD)
- DE Pierre Leonard, Jr., 5-10, 235 (26 tackles, 7 for loss, 4 sacks, 6 QB pressures, forced fumble)
- S Bryston Gipson, Jr., 6-0, 180 (24 tackles, INT, 4 fumbles recoveries, PBU, 3 defensive TDs)
Just the facts
- Since becoming John Tyler High in 1958, Lufkin and JT have met 54 times. John Tyler leads the series over that span, 26-25-3.
- Four of the last six meetings have been decided by nine points or less.
- Lufkin is averaging 39.8 points and 404.2 yards per game -- 218.6 rushing and 185.6 passing.
- Lufkin running back Steven Sowell has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in all five games this season.
- Under coach Todd Quick, Lufkin is 10-4 in district games.
- Lufkin's last three games have been decided by a total of 17 points.
- John Tyler is averaging 46 points and 383.2 yards per game -- 170 rushing and 213.2 passing.
- John Tyler has scored nine non-offensive touchdowns this season.
- Under coach Ricklan Holmes, John Tyler is 11-1 in district games.
- John Tyler has outscored its last two opponents by a combined 98 points.
Key matchup: Lufkin running game vs. John Tyler defensive front. Despite featuring one of the area's top quarterbacks and one of East Texas' most talented 1-2 receiving combos, the Lufkin Panthers have relied on the legs of senior running back Steven Sowell. Not only has Sowell run for more than 100 yards in each of his team's first five games, he also has a team-leading 10 touchdowns. Following a season in which quarterback Trey Cumbie averaged 31 passing attempts and 248.9 passing yards per game, Cumbie is averaging just 20.2 attempts and 185.6 yards in 2014. Sowell, meanwhile, is on pace to run for 1,576 yards during the regular season after he managed 1,170 in 11 games a season ago. So far, the change in philosophy seems to be working. Although Lufkin has lost twice in five games, the Panthers are just a few plays from coming into Friday's game undefeated. Lufkin committed five turnovers in a 32-25 loss to Louisiana state power River Ridge John Curtis in Week 3, and was intercepted on its final possession in a 38-35 loss to arch-rival Nacogdoches two weeks ago. Turnovers aside, the Lufkin offense has been productive, averaging more than 400 yards and nearly 40 points per game. Expect Sowell, who's averaging 157.6 rushing yards on 22 carries, to once again to take center stage when Lufkin has the ball.
So far this season, John Tyler's rush defense has been hit or miss. The Lions allowed just 95 yards on the ground in a 30-12 season-opening win over Plano, but then gave up an average of 262.3 the next three weeks before limiting Lindale to just 84 rushing yards last Friday night. John Tyler has also allowed five 100-yard rushers in its first five games, including three in the Lions' 37-31 loss to crosstown rival Tyler Lee on Sept. 12. Lufkin brings in one of East Texas' top offensive lines, anchored by senior FBS recruit Erik McCoy and fellow senior Brandon Larue. The Panthers O-line will be operating against one of the area's best defensive fronts, which has had its moments with defending the run but has had much more consistent success rushing the passer. To counter-balance the effect of John Tyler's aggressive pass rush, Lufkin will most likely call for a steady diet of handoffs to Sowell, who is the most productive running back John Tyler's defense will have faced up to this point in the season.
Even though this season's numbers do not indicate it, Lufkin is quite adept in the passing game. Cumbie is completing 72 percent of his passes and has 13 touchdown passes to just two interceptions in 101 attempts. Receivers KeKe Coutee and Terry Mark -- both FBS targets -- have done the most damage, combining for 73.6 percent of the team's receptions, 80.9 percent of the yards and 76.9 percent of Lufkin's touchdown catches. Just last week, Cumbie threw four touchdown passes in the Panthers' 52-45 defeat of Whitehouse. All of that being stated, Lufkin's dynamic wideouts will be matched up against one of the area's most talented defensive backfields. Between cornerbacks Isaac Warren (Purdue commit) and Deandre Williams (FBS recruit) and safeties Bryston Gipson (three defensive touchdowns) and Jordan Owens (two INTs), John Tyler's secondary has become a frustrating force for opposing quarterbacks and receivers. When Lufkin played a similarly talented secondary in Nacogdoches, Cumbie attempted a season-low 13 passes for a season-worst 111 yards. That is not to say that Lufkin will necessarily shy away from throwing at the Lions' defensive backs, but if the Panthers are forced to throw it because of an unproductive running game, passing the football against JT becomes a treacherous proposition.
Don't be surprised if: Friday's game comes down to the fourth quarter. Judging by the two teams' one common district opponent, Whitehouse, John Tyler appears to be a favorite coming into the contest. John Tyler rolled to a 52-17 over Whitehouse in the 16-5A opener, while Lufkin had to exert a ton of energy to protect a 21-point, fourth-quarter lead last week against the Wildcats. But do not let that fool you. Lufkin, which looked dominant during stretches last Friday, is coming off an emotional win that may have ultimately saved its season. And with new life, comes renewed confidence. Lufkin also has the experience of playing in consecutive tight games, unlike John Tyler, which has not had to play its starters much in the second half the last two weeks. Expect Lufkin to bring the same urgency and intensity to the field this week, as the Panthers look to once again get off to a fast start. The Panthers scored on their first two possessions and built a 21-7 lead in the first quarter vs. Whitehouse a week ago, and that ultimately carried them to the finish line. The week before, Lufkin was put in a 14-0 hole against Nacogdoches, and was forced to chase points throughout the game. If the game is close in the fourth quarter, it will be interesting to see how John Tyler responds, considering its only game decided in the game's final period came in a loss to Tyler Lee. Lufkin, meanwhile, has experienced both the high and low ends of emotion in fourth quarters this season.