It takes a lot of guts to voluntarily schedule Longview. It takes a lot of moxie to challenge Lufkin.

It takes even more confidence for two of East Texas' most premiere large-sized schools to face each other in the season-opener knowing they're on a crash course for each other once again in the postseason.

Lufkin at Longview is our eighth choice as we count down the top 25 games of the upcoming regular season.

The Sept. 1 contest could easily be a playoff preview.

It will be the fourth consecutive season the two programs open against each other. The Lobos and Panthers went on to face each other in bi-district rounds of 2014 and 2015.

Since the programs are in adjacent districts, and since both schools are the smallest in their districts and automatically go to the Class 6A Division II playoffs, there's a 50-50 chance of another Longview-Lufkin meeting in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Lobos are 3-2 against the Panthers the past four years and have the experience edge this season with 12 returning starters to Lufkin's seven. That doesn't tell the whole story, though.

The Panthers are never short on athletes, and Malik Jackson is one of the area's best receivers. A Houston commitment, Jackson is eyeing a 1,000-yard season after recording 916 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior.

Lufkin WR Malik Jackson (© Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Breylon Garcia and Ja'Lynn Polk are other threats to Longview's secondary, part of a mostly intact defense that held opponents to a District 11-6A best 26.8 points per game.

The only thing missing for Lufkin is an established quarterback, but we're talking about the program that produced Reggie McNeal and just sent Kordell Rodgers to Texas State this past February.

Run-oriented Longview is looking for a new leading rusher and a new quarterback as fall camp begins.

Without diving further into the nitty gritty of this year's game, let's just appreciate the prestige of the matchup.

These programs are always near the top of the list when it comes to the likelihood of winning a district championship, the likelihood of contending for a state championship and are at the top of the local chart when it comes to producing NFL'ers.

You always know you're in for a talent-loaded game when Longview and Lufkin get together.

ETSN.fm’s Top 25 Games of 2017