NACOGDOCHES -- Friday's meeting between Lufkin and Nacogdoches had the potential to be the best-played game between the two schools. It lived up to the hype in the Dragons' 38-35, District 16-5A win.

The game had everything a fan could want.

The two sides played nearly flawless football, there was future college talent on display, playoff implications were on the line and it was a marquee rivalry game. It was also a grudge match for Lufkin, which lost at home to the Dragons last season.

Up 38-35 against an offense that had matched every score up to the final drive, defensive back Jaylon Lane killed the trend with a late interception.

"We've got some smart kids who can play well," Dragons head coach Bobby Reyes said. "People take us for granted. That's OK. We're Nacogdoches. We're just not the same Nacogdoches. We're a little different."

Lane's pick was the game's only turnover.

Lufkin -- a program recognized for its tradition state wide -- dominated the series until last season. Nacogdoches had not defeated the Panthers since 1992 prior to last year's non-district win and generally were an afterthought in East Texas, an 0-10 team Reyes' first year in 2012.

Lufkin quarterback Trey Cumbie throws for a 26-yard touchdown pass to Terry Mark in the second quarter of Friday's District 16-5A opening game. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Back-to-back wins in the series for the rising program ended in similar fashion.

Last year, current junior safety Brandon Jones won the game on a late pick-six. Jones sustained a season-ending knee injury last week.

Lane, a cornerback to start the year, was playing Jones' safety position.

The Dragons (4-0, 1-0) raced out to a 14-0 lead and never trailed in the game.

But down a fifth time after Rudy Fuentes' 24-yard field goal with 2:59 to play, Lufkin (2-2, 0-1) appeared to be in business. It worked against a severe time of possession disparity to tie the game with touchdowns on four separate occasions.

Quarterback Trey Cumbie connected with KeKe Coutee for an 11-yard pass on its first play after the ensuing touchback and moved up to the 36-yard line.

The Pack tried for a big gain on the very next play. Cumbie launched a pass to the Dragons' 20-yard line, but it was under thrown. Lane caught the ball at its highest point and returned it to the opposing 47 with 2:32 to play.

"That was my first time to play safety in this type of defense this year," Lane, an Oklahoma State verbal commitment, said. "I had to be prepared and tried to get comfortable. I just stepped in there, did what I could and played to the best of my ability. Just kept my head on straight and made a big play at the end."

Lufkin burned all three of its timeouts on Nacogdoches' final drive and ultimately set up manageable 4th-and-2 defensive situation at their own 27. Dragons quarterback Hunter McClellan gained 13 yards off the edge and slid to seal the game.

"I just think it's a testament to our team," McClellan said. "We never quit. We just kept fighting to the end. We drove the ball down on that final possession. The O-line and defense did great. It was just a all-around good game for all of us."

Lufkin won the coin toss and deferred.

McClellan helped guide his offense 64 yards on 12 plays in the opening sequence and running back Coronado Tolbert scored on a six-yard run. Tolbert finished the game with 37 carries for 162 yards.

The Panthers muffed the kickoff after the score. Lane recovered the ball on the right side of the 50.

Running back Coronado Tolbert runs for a 12-yard gain to set Nacogdoches in the red zone against Lufkin in Friday's win. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Tolbert capped a 41-yard drive with a short run.

But it came easy for Lufkin after giving its offense a chance. Cumbie connected with Terry Mark on a 26-yard pass for a score and primary tailback Steven Sowell scored on an 87-yard carry in about four minutes of possession through the game's first 19 minutes.

A lone failure to score was a costly though. In no man's land, the Panthers did not convert a 4th-and-9 from the opposing 41-yard line with 1:16 left in the half.

McClellan led Nacogdoches on a 59-yard drive, aided by a roughing the passer penalty. He hit Sam Morgan for a four-yard score with two seconds left in the half.

But Sowell, who carried the ball for 199 yards on just 15 attempts, ran 53 yards on the Pack's first play of the second half to set up a 1st-and-goal. He scored the next down on a nine-yard run.

Nacogdoches took the lead a third time with a 75-yard, seven-minute drive topped off by an 11-yard Tolbert run.

Lufkin's longest drive of the game, a 4:24 possession, was converted for a score when Coutee beat Lane for a nine-yard catch on a jump ball.

The Dragons went up 35-28 with 1:24 to play in the third quarter when McClellan connected with Ken Rogers on a medium-range pass. Rogers broke a tackle at midfield and raced down the sideline.

Sowell tied the game a final time with a four-yard finishing touch on a 65-yard drive that took about three minutes with 10:02 to play.

Tolbert, McClellan and a defensive holding penalty did most of the damage on Nacogdoches' final scoring sequence, a seven-minute drive to set up Fuentes' third game-winning kick of the season.

The Dragons are one of four teams to control their destiny through one week of 16-5A play. Corsicana, Ennis and John Tyler also got league wins Friday.

Ennis will host Nacogdoches next week.

The Panthers will simultaneously take on Whitehouse in Lufkin. The loser of that game will be 0-2 in the league and in a considerable amount of midseason trouble.

"The key was it's a district win," Reyes said. "I mean, it's a huge district win because we're starting 1-0 off the bat and now we've got to go play Ennis. We know Ennis is really good. But we're pretty good, too."

The Nacogdoches sideline celebrates immediately following the Dragon's kneel down Friday. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Nacogdoches 38, Lufkin 35

District 16-5A Game
At Dragon Stadium, Nacogdoches

Lufkin                           0   14     14     7    --    35
Nacogdoches            14    7      14     3     --   38

First quarter
NAC--Coronado Tolbert 6 run (Rudy Fuentes kick), 8:26
NAC--Tolbert 2 run (Fuentes kick), 2:01
Second quarter
LUF--Terry Mark 26 pass from Trey Cumbie (Javiar Montes), 10:59
LUF--Steven Sowell 87 run (Montes kick), 7:37
NAC--Sam Morgan 2 pass from Hunter McClellan (Fuentes kick), :02
Third quarter
LUF--Sowell 9 run (Montes kick), 11:34
NAC--Tolbert 11 run (Fuentes kick), 5:36
LUF--KeKe Coutee 9 pass from Cumbie (Montes kick), 1:44
NAC--Ken Rogers 78 pass from McClellan (Fuentes kick), 1:24
Fourth quarter
LUF--Sowell 4 run (Montes kick), 10:02
NAC-- Fuentes 24 field goal, 2:59

                                                LUF                 NAC
First Downs                                15                   28
Total Yards                               365                 429
Rushes-Yards                        23-240           46-200
Passing Yards                          125                 229
Comp.-Att.-Int.                     9-13-1            18-28-0
Punts-Avg.                              0-0                 2-36.5
Fumbles-Lost                         1-0                 1-0
Penalties-Yards                      3-35               7-75

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING--Lufkin, Steven Sowell 15-199, Ellis Jackson 3-15, Trey Cumbie 2-12, Blake Johnson 1-9, KeKe Coutee 2-5. Nacogdoches, Coronado Tolbert 37-162, Hunter McClellan 8-33, Tae Thomas 1-5.
PASSING--Lufkin, Cumbie 9-13-1--111. Nacogdoches, McClellan 18-28-0--229.
RECEIVING--Lufkin, KeKe Coutee 5-50, Terry Mark 2-40, Dalvin Smith 2-27, Blake Johnson 1-8. Nacogdoches, Sam Morgan 7-79, Ken Rogers 1-78, Thomas 2-31, Bryce Matthews 5-29, Taylor White 1-11.