LUFKIN -- Sometimes a team's best offense is its defense. And that was the case for the Lufkin Panthers on Friday night.

Lufkin lived in the John Tyler backfield, recording 16 sacks in a dominating 52-28 season-opening win at Abe Martin Stadium.

The Panthers fell behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter, but reeled off 46 consecutive points thanks to a ferocious defense that harassed John Tyler junior quarterback Geovari McCollister all night long.

Lufkin's KeKe Coutee is brought down by John Tyler's Greg Johnson during their game Friday night in Lufkin. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Nine different Lufkin players recorded a sack, led by senior linebacker DeAndre Robertson's 3.5-sack effort. Junior defensive lineman Josh Driver and senior lineman Darren Robins had 2.5 sacks apiece. John Tyler had 21 plays go for negative yardage, and just one ball carrier finished with positive yardage.

While Lufkin recorded seven first-half sacks en route to a 28-21 halftime lead, the defensive onslaught didn't begin in earnest until the first play of the third quarter.

John Tyler had tough field position to begin with, beginning its initial second-half drive at its own 6, and Lufkin took advantage when Robins broke through the line to sack McColliser in the end zone for a safety.

And on Lufkin's second play of the ensuing drive, junior running back Steven Sowell ran 45 yards to the end zone to give the Panthers a 37-21 lead just a minute into the third quarter.

Lufkin's Michael Farley intercepts a pass intended for John Tyler's Duntavion Gross during their game Friday night in Lufkin. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

On JT's next possession, a bad snap over McCollister's head and another Lufkin sack resulted in minus-27 yards to bring up fourth-and-long when the snap went over Lions punter Luis Duran's head and into the end zone for another safety. Lufkin scored four plays later on Trey Cumbie's 11-yard run, which gave the Panthers a commanding 46-21 lead midway through the third.

Cumbie, in his career start, finished 10-of-19 for 173 yards with two touchdowns and an interception and added 66 yards on five rushing attempts. Senior receiver and Texas A&M commit Jamal Jeffery had two catches for 91 yards and a touchdown, while junior receiver and Texas pledge KeKe Coutee ran for 63 yards and a score. Sowell led Lufkin's 241-yard rushing effort with 95 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.

McCollister, who was also making his varsity debut, completed 17 of 28 passes for 354 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Senior running back Reggie Gipson had three catches for 127 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown on a screen pass for the game's first score of the night. Nick Cain had five catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.

John Tyler's Jeremy Wilson slips away from a Lufkin defender during their game Friday night in Lufkin. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

John Tyler jumped out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter. Gipson's score came on third-and-30. After Lufkin answered back with Coutee's 24-yard run, but the Lions' big-play prowess showed up once again. On the first play of JT's fourth drive of the night, Jeremy Wilson raced 86 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead. The Lions added to it after recovering a fumble on the ensuing kick. Gipson's 4-yard run put the Lions ahead by two scores.

That's when Lufkin began to take over.

Two plays after Gibson's score, Cumbie hit Jeffery in stride and the senior outraced the JT secondary 63 yards for a the touchdown. Michael Farley returned a McCollister interception 64 yards on the the Lions' next possession, setting Lufkin up at the JT 11. The Panthers evened the game at 21-21 on Cumbie's 11-yard pass to Terry Mark.

Following a JT three-and-out, Lufkin took the lead for a good when Sowell capped a 43-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run that put the Panthers ahead 28-21 with 4:10 remaining in the first half.

John Tyler continues its season next Saturday at home against Lancaster, while Lufkin plays at Tyler Lee on Friday night.

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Lufkin 52, No. 8 John Tyler 28

John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium, Lufkin

John Tyler             21    0    0    7   --    28
Lufkin                   14   14  18    6   --    52
First Quarter
JT--Reggie Gipson 77 pass from Geovari McCollister (Jose Perez kick), 9:16.
LUF--KeKe Coutee 24 run (Timmy Martinez kick), 7:56.
JT--Jeremy Wilson 86 run (Perez kick), 4:11.
JT--Gipson 4 run (Perez kick), 1:17.
LUF--Jamal Jeffery 63 pass from Trey Cumbie (Martinez kick), :26.
Second Quarter
LUF-- Terry Mark 11 pass from Cumbie (Martinez kick), 8:05.
LUF--Steven Sowell 2 run (Martinez kick), 4:10.
Third Quarter
LUF--Safety, McCollister sacked in end zone, 11:46.
LUF--Sowell 45 run (Martinez kick), 11:00.
LUF--Safety, Luis Duran tackled in end zone, 7:02.
LUF--Cumbie 11 run (Martinez kick), 5:56.
Fourth Quarter
LUF--FG Martinez 43, 10:04.
LUF--FG Martinez, 26, 5:34.
JT--Nick Cain 46 pass from McCollister (Perez kick), 2:35.

                                     JT               LUF
First Downs                    17                 20
Rushes-Yards              35-3           33-241
Passing Yards               354               173
Comp.-Att.-Int.        17-28-1         10-21-1
Punts-Avg.                4-31.3           3-42.3
Fumbles-Lost                 3-0               1-1
Penalties-Yards           10-82             7-60

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--John Tyler, Jeremy Wilson 1-86, Nick Cain 2-(-12), Reggie Gipson 7-(-12), Team 1-(-18), Geovari McCollister 24-(-41). Lufkin, Steven Sowell 18-95, Trey Cumbie 5-66, KeKe Coutee 3-63, Yoram McDowell 3-10, Josh Tolbert 4-7.
PASSING--John Tyler, McCollister 17-28-1--354. Lufkin, Cumbie 10-21-1--173.
RECEIVING--John Tyler, Cain 5-72, Duntavion Gross 4-58, Gipson 3-147, Wilson 3-66, Rodney Bendy 2-11. Lufkin, Jamal Jeffery 2-91, Demarrea Houston 2-36, Terry Mark 2-19, Coutee 2-15, Sowell 1-7, Kenny Gilbert 1-5.

John Tyler's Duntavion Gross is brought down by a pack of Lufkin defenders during their game Friday night in Lufkin. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

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