Lufkin Avenges 2015 Playoff Loss in 35-24 Season-Opening Win Over Rival Longview
[By Josh Havard, Special to ETSN.fm]
LUFKIN -- In a season-ending loss to the Longview Lobos nine months ago, a battered Kordell Rodgers was forced to the sideline with a concussion, eventually watching his Lufkin Panthers' season come to an end in 31-10 fashion.
Given another chance, it was Kordell Rodgers who dished out some punishment of his own.
The senior quarterback threw for 184 yards and a score, ran for two more touchdowns and made play after play down the stretch, giving the Panthers a thrilling 35-24 win over the Lobos at John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium on Friday night.
Rodgers delivered the final knockout blow with a 6-yard touchdown run in the final minutes as the Panthers snapped a three-game losing streak against their nemesis.
"He can go out there and make plays," Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. "He's going to have to do that for us. We just have to try to make him not do too much."
While Rodgers took center stage late in the game, it was the defense that withstood a 208-yard, three-touchdown night from Kendrevian White to give the Panthers the win.
Lufkin was able to limit the big plays and come up with the key plays down the stretch in the win.
"It wasn't perfect and it's not going to be this early in the season," Quick said, "but they hung in there."
The game was a battle of East Texas powerhouses who are returning to the state's biggest classification. At least for a night, it was Lufkin that got the upper hand on its rival.
"Its a good start, but we're still looking down the road in what we need to get better," Quick said.
Longview got the big play early to help set up its first score. When miscommunication led to a 36-yard loss on a snap that sailed into the Lufkin backfield, the Panthers recovered but were forced to punt from their own end zone.
The Lobos took advantage of the short field with Kendrevian White scoring on a 6-yard run for an early 7-0 advantage.
The Panthers struck back quickly with the help of a third-and-15 conversion when Rodgers found Dhailon Phillips for a 35-yard pass.
Rodgers then had his own acrobatics on a 7-yard run to even up the game at 7-7.
Each team struggled to find its footing for the rest of the first half with Lufkin finally getting a chance to tie the game on a 34-yard field goal. When that was off the mark, Longview's offense finally got in gear to move into Lufkin territory.
The Panthers' Ariel Olvera ended that threat with an interception.
That gave a spark to the Lufkin offense two plays later when Rodgers found Jackson for a nice 74-yard touchdwon strike, giving the Pack a 14-7 lead just before the break.
White was the workhorse for Longview in the opening half with 110 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He accounted for most of the Lobos' 157 total yards of offense.
Lufkin was led by Rodgers, who completed only 5-of-13 passes but did his damage with 128 yards and a touchdown to go along with his rushing touchdown.
Jackson had the big play for Lufkin with two catches for 75 yards while Phillips had three receptions for 53 yards.
Longview bounced right back in the second half. The Lobos marched down the field on their first drive before scoring on a Brown 1-yard run that knotted the game at 14-14.
Lufkin had the immediate answer when it rode the legs of Kahlil Brown, who finished with 81 yards and two scores on 19 carres, to another score. Brown capped off an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard run to give Lufkin the lead back at 21-14.
Once again Longview had the answer as it methodically went 63 yards on 13 plays with White scoring on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line to tie it again at 21-21.
That tie lasted only two plays as Malik Jackson returned the next kickoff 99 yards to the Lobo 1 before Brown powered in from a yard out for a 28-21 lead.
Longview edged closer on a Chris Kessler 43-yard field goal that made it 28-24 with 7:07 remaining.
That's when Lufkin turned the tables on Longview to put the game away.
Grounding out a 12-play, 75-yard drive, Lufkin finally took control when Rodgers scored on a six-yard run with 1:36 remaining for the final score. On the drive, Rodgers broke free for a 29-yard run on fourth and three that set up the score.
Lufkin (1-0) will play at Nacogdoches on Friday night. Longview (0-1) will travel to Marshall.