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.


Top 25 Games of the Year

No. 6: Longview vs. Mesquite

No. 7: Arp vs. Tatum

No. 8: John Tyler vs. Corsicana

No. 9: Henderson vs. Chapel Hill

No. 10: Henderson vs. Kilgore

No. 11: Carthage vs. Chapel Hill

No. 12: Kilgore vs. Chapel Hill

No. 13: Chapel Hill vs. Gilmer

No. 14: Alto vs. San Augustine

No. 15: Texas High vs. Sulphur Springs

No. 16: Waco La Vega vs. Palestine

No. 17: Hughes Springs vs. Elysian Fields

No. 18: Gilmer vs. Atlanta

No. 19: Whitehouse vs. Carthage

No. 20: Daingerfield vs. New Boston

No. 21: Carlisle vs. Big Sandy

No. 22: Palestine vs. Jacksonville

No. 23: Tenaha vs. San Augustine

No. 24: Gilmer vs. Daingerfield

No. 25: John Tyler vs. Tyler Lee