Division I State 7-On-7 Tournament: Lufkin Steals Show With Big Win Against Lancaster
COLLEGE STATION -- It's not hard to fathom a Lufkin-Lancaster game being the state's Game of the Week should the two teams ever run across each other.
Friday's meeting between the two sides at the Division I Texas State 7-on-7 Championships garnered a little less attention, but it was an eye-opening experience for Panthers fans. The Pack bombed away at Lancaster's defense and cruised to a 41-26 win against one of the state's best college football factories.
Lufkin's victory was the first of two on the day, which extended the squad's state tournament streak to eight games. The streak dated back to winning a final pool game last year and then winning five straight contests for the tournament's consolation bracket championship before losing the final pool game of the 2016 tournament.
"Last year was a learning experience," senior receiver Dhailon Phillips said. "We came out and weren't ready to play. But we learned from it. We won five games in a row the next day, so we felt like we carried some momentum coming into this year. We wanted to start out the year different."
Phillips tied for the team lead in touchdowns against Lancaster with two. Javante Ellington also scored twice while quarterback Kordell Rodgers played a role in all six touchdowns as part of a 19-of-30 performance toward 270 yards on the 45-yard field at Veterans Memorial Park in College Station against a continuous clock of two 20-minute halves.
Veterans Memorial Park will host all of today's championship bracket games. Lufkin will begin single-elimination competition at 9 a.m. against Lewisville Hebron.
Lancaster, admittedly shorthanded with star receiver Omar Manning attending The Opening in Oregon rather than the tournament, ended its day with a 1-2 pool record and will compete in the consolation bracket.
But Lancaster's 7-on-7 team featured five other seniors committed to Division I FBS programs and several other players with college football options.
Rodgers' commitment to Texas State and Phillips' interest from a handful of FBS and FCS schools rounds out college interest in the Pack's senior class.
Lufkin's defense forced three turnovers on downs and held on one extra point attempt. Lancaster gained 215 yards and relied heavily on throws over the top of the Panthers' secondary.
"Last year, we felt a little disappointment losing our first two (7-on-7 state games)," Rodgers said. "We just knew that wasn't us. This year, we wanted to make a statement. Come out here against a very good opponent, like Lancaster, and, like I said, we knew we were better than last year.
"We've been working all summer. Getting up for 6 a.m. workouts. We just knew we could compete with anybody."
Rodgers and company went on to defeat Friendswood Clear Brook, 42-33, in its second Pool F game to clinch a championship bracket appearance. The group then dropped a meaningless third pool game to Belton by a score of 39-33.
John Tyler won all three of its pool games and will join Lufkin in pursuit of a Division I 7-on-7 state championship. John Tyler is aligned on the same side of the 32-team bracket.
The Panthers and John Tyler need to win three games each to meet each other in the semifinal round.
Jacksonville was the third and final East Texas team to clinch a Division I berth at the state level. It dropped all three of its contests and will compete in the consolation bracket.
"Last year, when we went 0-2 in our first two games, we were very depressed," Rodgers said. "We knew one thing. If we were going to be here, we needed to come out with something else the next day. We won the consolation bracket. It has just carried over to this year. We want to make a statement to everyone."
John Tyler's Defense Shines In Game Against Pearland Dawson
The Lions punched their ticket into the Division I Texas State 7-on-7 Championships' championship bracket with a 33-19 win against Pearland Dawson.
Defensive backs Kieran Freeman and Da'quaylon Kennedy recorded short pick-sixes in the contest. Tyus Grayson ended two other Dawson drives with interceptions in the end zone.
John Tyler forced three turnovers on downs in addition to its four interceptions.
"When our offense doesn't score, we don't put our heads down," senior linebacker Shaundrick Williams said. "We feel like we've got to get it done regardless of what they do. We've got to hold our own end of the stick a little."
Quarterback Bryson Smith, a senior Houston commitment, and the Lions' offense didn't have many issues following two turnovers on downs to start the game. He completed 19-of-38 passes while enduring two late interceptions and one dropped ball.
John Tyler tied the game, 7-7, midway through the first half and owned a 26-13 advantage by halftime thanks to Grayson's first pick, a turnover on downs and the two pick-sixes. Michael Gibbons and Josh Parker caught touchdown passes in the burst.
Smith snapped a two-drive streak of no scoring midway through the second half on a 20-yard strike to Victor Campbell for a 33-13 advantage.
Dawson's first three drives of the second half were scoreless, but it got on the board in the game's final two minutes with a touchdown ahead of John Tyler breaking up its extra point attempt.
"They had some quick slot receivers and some big outside receivers," Grayson said. "They liked to go deep a lot. They attacked the top of everything."
The Lions will face Hutto at 9 a.m. today in their round of 32 game of the championship bracket.
Lufkin also qualified for the championship bracket and was placed on the same side of the field. John Tyler will face Lufkin if both teams win their first three single-elimination games.
"We've got to represent East Texas," Grayson said. "John Tyler. We want to win it all."
Jacksonville Struggles In First State Trip
While Lufkin and John Tyler rolled, Jacksonville struggled against its Pool B competition and missed the championship bracket after finishing an 0-3 day.
Friday was the first day of the Indians' first-ever trip to College Station and featured losses to Hutto, Mesquite Poteet and The Woodlands.
"It was a good experience to get here, but today wasn't that good," graceful Jacksonville senior quarterback Cameron High said. "Everybody hates losing. But we're going to keep pushing in the consolation bracket."
Lufkin faced a similar situation last season. Once in the consolation bracket, it won out to end its 2015 trip on a high note.
This year, Lufkin is in the championship bracket alongside John Tyler. Those were the only other local teams to qualify for College Station.
Jacksonville will begin consolation bracket competition today at 8 a.m. against Pflugerville Hendrickson.
"Even though we're not in the championship bracket, we have the opportunity to win the consolation bracket," High said. "This won't stop us from trying to win."
--For complete Texas State 7-on-7 Championships scores and brackets, click here.