Lufkin Looks To Make Statement When Panthers Host District-Leading + No. 7 Ennis
No. 7 Ennis Lions (5-2, 4-0)
Lufkin Panthers (4-3, 2-2)
7:30 p.m. Friday
Abe Martin Stadium, Lufkin
- Ennis: Jack Alvarez
- Lufkin: Todd Quick
- Ennis: at Lindale, Oct. 31
- Lufkin: at Corsicana, Oct. 31
- DE James Lockhart, Sr., 6-4, 253 (committed to Texas A&M)
- WR Donta Thompson, Sr., 6-5, 205 (30 catches, 551 yards, 6 TDs)
- QB Devin Smith, Sr., 5-10, 155 (67 of 117, 1,175 yards, 10 TDs, INT; 63 carries, 255 yards, 3 TDs)
- RB Taylor Thompson, Sr., 5-9, 160 (106 carries, 677 yards, 9 TDs; 16 catches, 339 yards, 4 TDs)
- RB Tre Elliott, Jr., 5-11, 205 (88 carries, 504 yards, 6 TDs; 4 catches, 20 yards)
- WR Desten Johnson, Sr., 5-9, 160 (9 catches, 209 yards, TD)
- LB Ke'idre Edwards, Sr., 5-10, 190
- S Marqus Monroe, Jr.
- WR KeKe Coutee, Sr., 5-10, 170 (38 catches, 532 yards, 6 TDs; 7 carries, 36 yards)
- WR Terry Mark, Sr., 6-2, 180 (27 catches, 454 yards, 9 TDs; committed to Houston)
- OL Erik McCoy, Sr., 6-4, 290
- DE/LB Bronson Massie, Jr., 6-3, 210
- QB Trey Cumbie, Sr., 6-2, 195 (93 of 133, 1,277 yards, 18 TDs, 2 INTs; 27 carries, 95 yards, 2 TDs)
- RB Steven Sowell, Sr., 5-9, 170 (133 carries, 946 yards, 13 TDs; 11 catches, 91 yards)
- DL Tyrique Spencer, Sr., 6-2, 240
- FB Blake Johnson, Sr., 5-10, 180 (8 carries, 83 yards, TD; 6 catches, 70 yards, TD)
Just the facts
- Ennis is averaging 35.6 points and 416.5 yards per game -- 236.7 rushing and 179.8 passing.
- Ennis is outscoring district opponents by an average margin of 16.8 points per game.
- Ennis reached the Class 4A Division II state semifinals a season ago.
- The combined record of Ennis' previous seven opponents is 31-18.
- Lufkin is averaging 40.9 points and 384.4 yards per game -- 198.7 rushing and 185.7 passing.
- Lufkin's three losses have come by a combined 12 points.
- With one more win, Lufkin will equal last season's win total.
- The combined record of Lufkin's previous seven opponents is 29-19.
Key matchup: Ennis rushing attack vs. Lufkin defensive front. The Ennis Lions may have one of the most balanced offenses in District 16-5A, but don't let that fool you. Ennis' offense is predicated on a strong ground game running behind a powerful offensive line. The running back combination of Taylor Thompson and Tre Elliott give Ennis a dynamic 1-2 punch in the backfield. Thompson, the smaller of the two backs, leads the team in rushing and his breakaway speed is what separates him from most players at his position. Thompson's ability to make plays in the passing game is another dimension to the versatile back's game. Elliott, who weighs in at over 200 pounds, brings power and great vision to the table. In most other offenses, he would probably serve as the team's featured back. But in Ennis' old-school offense, which consists of just a few plays out of a multitude of formations, Elliott serves as the perfect compliment to Thompson. When those two aren't carrying the ball, Ennis quarterback Devin Smith has the ability to burn opposing defense with his legs. While the Lions do not call too many designed running plays for their quarterback, Smith puts defenses in binds when he rolls out of the pocket. His option to ether pass downfield or tuck it and run calls for defenders to remain disciplined with their assignments.
Lufkin must contain Ennis' ground attack in order to pull the upset. The Panthers have had their moments of success in effectively defending opposing ground games, but they will be put to the test vs. Ennis on Friday night. It's not simply Ennis' decision to run the ball, but how they do it. Head coach Jack Alvarez and his staff won't get discouraged if a few running plays go for no gain or negative yardage. It's that strong commitment to establishing the run that eventually wears down defenses in the third and fourth quarters of games. While the Ennis passing game is capable of putting up big numbers like it did with more than 300 yards in the district opener at Jacksonville, there's no secret that the Lions prefer to get their running attack established at the outset. Lufkin must do everything it can, from employing eight- and nine-man fronts, to keep Ennis from finding early success on the ground. Lufkin has one of East Texas' most explosive offenses, so a few early stops of Ennis could create a positive swell of momentum for the Panthers out of the gate. And playing in front of the home crowd against the district front-runner, any early momentum-swings would be beneficial for Lufkin.
Don't be surprised if: Lufkin also tries to establish its running game in the first half. Senior running back Steven Sowell is enjoying a stellar senior season, and he could be the key for the Panthers on offense Friday night. Sowell's been held to less than 100 yards just one time in seven games this season, so expect Lufkin to attempt to get him going early against Ennis. The quicker the Panthers can establish their ground attack, the more deadly the combination of quarterback Trey Cumbie and receivers KeKe Coutee and Terry Mark becomes. It would be difficult to find a more fearsome receiving duo in all of East Texas than Coutee and Mark, who are both FBS recruits. If Lufkin can create some single-coverage matchups for the two of them, the Panthers' offense should be able to take advantage. One way to ensure man-to-man coverage on the edge is for Lufkin to run the football with authority. If Sowell is consistently picking up big chunks of yardage, Lufkin's play-action passing attack could become a huge factor this week.