The Highlanders and Lufkin Panthers never faced one another on the gridiron before being placed in the same district in 2004. And every year since, this game has ultimately decided a district championship, which could again be the case this year when the two meet in Lufkin on Oct. 12.

Lufkin leads the all-time series 6-2, including last season’s 30-10 win that gave the late coach John Outlaw his 300th career victory. Both programs have enjoyed success in recent years. Since 1998, The Woodlands sports a 128-44 record and Lufkin is 145-34.

Despite finishing second to Lufkin in the district a season ago, The Woodlands rolled all the way to the 5A Division I state quarterfinals where the Highlanders were eliminated by Dallas Skyline, 35-31.

The Highlanders’ biggest strength should be along their offensive line, which is anchored by senior tackle Sam Kronshage (6-5, 275). The Woodlands’ top offensive playmaker figures to be receiver Jayme Taylor, whose 6-4, 225-pound frame should create matchup problems with opposing secondaries.

Lufkin, under longtime Outlaw assistant Todd Quick, is not short on size and athleticism. Anchoring a fast and physical defense will be the Panthers’ line tandem of D’vante Botley and Demontrai Lewis (6-3, 220). Lufkin’s go-to guy on offense figures to be receiver JaBryce Taylor (6-1, 180), who has committed to SMU.

The biggest challenge for the Panthers offensively will be how quick the quarterback position develops.


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