Nacogdoches Dragons (1-2)

vs.

Lufkin Panthers (1-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

Abe Martin Stadium, Lufkin

Coaches
  • Nacogdoches: Bobby Reyes
  • Lufkin: Todd Quick

 

Last week
  • Nacogdoches: idle
  • Lufkin: idle

 

Next week
  • Nacogdoches: vs. Ennis, Oct. 2
  • Lufkin: at Whitehouse, Oct. 2

 

Playmakers

Nacogdoches

  • DB Brandon Jones, Sr., 6-0, 190
  • DB Corey Lane, Sr., 6-0, 185
  • QB Noah Hildebrand, Jr., 6-1, 180 (37-64, 595 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs)
  • LB Derrick Wright, Jr., 5-8, 180
  • WR Alex Gregory, Sr., 6-0, 175 (17 catches, 377 yards, 2 TDs)
  • RB Phillip Jones, Sr., 5-9, 172 (90 carries, 472 yards, 2 TDs)
  • ATH Pearce Adams, Sr., 5-9, 170
  • WR Jaylon Maxie, Jr., 6-0, 165 (7 catches, 98 yards)
  • DL Kamron Yarbrough, Sr., 5-11, 300
  • DL Devaunte Johnson, Jr., 6-0, 250

Lufkin

  • DL Bronson Massie, Sr., 6-3, 215
  • OL Jerrod Johnson, Sr., 6-3, 285
  • QB Kordell Rodgers, Jr., 6-0, 175
  • WR Dhailon Phillips, Jr., 6-3, 195
  • RB Dalvin Smith, Jr., 5-10, 220
  • OL Joseph Bell, Jr., 6-1, 280
  • DL Eric Smallwood, Sr., 6-2, 265
  • DL Karl Chatman, Sr., 6-1, 250
  • LB Javeon Johnson, Sr., 6-1, 190
  • WR Malik Jackson, Soph., 5-9, 155

 

Just the facts
  • Friday's game was ranked the No. 8 best of the regular season by ETSN.fm during the summer months.
  • The meeting is the District 16-5A opener for both teams. All teams in the league had their open dates last week.
  • Nacogdoches has won the past two meetings against its chief rival, and both times it ended up needing the particular win to reach the postseason.
  • Lufkin has dominated the all-time series. Prior to 2013, the Dragons' last win against the Panthers came in 1992.
  • Both teams are 1-2, but Lufkin has the more impressive body of work. Both of its defeats came by a combined nine points, and they were against storied Longview and Louisiana West Monroe programs. It also put together a 52-49 comeback win against Tyler Lee after trailing 42-3 with 25 minutes left in the game.
  • Nacogdoches isn't far off though. It's two losses came by a combined eight points to Hallsville and a promising Carthage team from Class 4A. The Hallsville loss came in overtime. It opened the season with a 28-10 win against Kilgore from Class 4A.
  • Lufkin underclassmen Kordell Rodgers and receiver Dhalion Phillips could be joining senior defensive end Bronson Massie as high-profile recruits in the near future. Rodgers, a junior, has thrown for 786 yards this season and Phillips had 228 yards alone against Tyler Lee three weeks ago.
  • Brandon Jones leads Nacogodches' college prospects with an East Texas-best 40 FBS offers.
  • District 16-5A might be a little more open than previously thought. John Tyler and Ennis, the projected first and second-place teams, turned in disappointing non-district with one combined win. But Lindale, Whitehouse and Corsicana -- all which missed the playoffs last season -- seemed to turn a corner in the same three-game span.
  • The game is Lufkin's home opener. It posted a 4-1 record at Abe Martin Stadium last year with its only loss coming to eventual Class 4A Division II state champion Ennis.
  • Nacogdoches' sole win of the season came on the road at Kilgore, its only road game thus far.
Nacogdoches running back Phillip Jones has been a bright spot for the Dragons. The overall offensive unit will have to play at its best to keep pace with Lufkin at Abe Martin Stadium. (Trey Bell, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Nacogdoches' offense versus Lufkin's defense.

Let Tyler Lee tell you, the Panthers have an offense that can explode at a moment's notice. It's up to the Dragons to keep up with Lufkin's tempo.

Nacogdoches' offensive unit has been the weaker side of the ball through three games. It is averaging 24.3 points per game, which just isn't going to cut it against the potent offenses District 16-5A will throw up against it. Lufkin's offense has averaged 35 points in regulation per game against a better strength of schedule.

Senior running back Phillip Jones has been a bright spot, however, and is a strength for junior Bossier City (La.) Bossier High School transfer quarterback Noah Hildebrand to lean on. Stephen F. Austin commit Alex Gregory headlines the passing game and is well on pace to break 400 yards receiving Friday.

But the passing game must become more diverse. Aside from Gregory, six receivers have catches and only one is flirting with 100 yards -- Jaylon Maxie.

If it's more of the same Friday, Lufkin has the defensive backs to somewhat contain Gregory and can use more resources keep Jones in check. Furthermore, defensive end Bronson Massie can be used as a pass rusher to pressure Hildebrand until the Dragons establish their attack.

Don't be surprised if: It's another barn burner. The past two games between the two schools have been decided by less than a touchdown. Nacogdoches has had two weeks to sort out its shortcomings on offense while Lufkin has to be feeling pretty good about its odds to get back on the winning side with the better overall body of work. Abe Martin Stadium should be rocking on both sides of the field since the two schools are separated by 15 miles and it has historically been the Dragons' defining game. There will be a lot of energy to feed the two teams. If Nacogdoches comes out with a few solid offensive drives early, all bets are off.

Lufkin receiver Jeremiah Davis tries to make a catch in the end zone during the Panthers' 21-20 season-opening loss at Longview on Aug. 28. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)