By JOSH HAVARD [Special to]

LUFKIN -- In the end, it was the Panthers who punched the hardest as they used a bevy of playmakers combined with a defense that made the plays when they needed them most to capture a 44-34 thriller in non-district action in Lufkin Friday night.

Malik Jackson caught two passes for 45 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added 80 yards and a 60-yard touchdown on the ground and Isaiah Phillips had his third straight 100-yard game as the Panthers got a little bit of revenge after last season's 50-49 playoff loss.

"We don't have to talk about those losses anymore," Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. "Hopefully we can start our own streak now."

The Panthers were able to get the win on a night they held leads of 14 and 23 points while John Tyler never led. However the Lions never faded as they pulled within three points in the final minutes of the game.

However, Isaiah Phillips came through with a 57-yard touchdown that put the game away and the Panthers' defense made the plays when they needed them most in improving to 2-1 on the young season.

"We let them back in the game and you can't do that against a good team," Quick said. "But we were able to fight through that. We didn't make it easy. The kids put themselves in a bind and we put them in a bind, but we fought through it."

John Tyler was led by Devlen Woods, who threw for 324 yards and three scores on 21-of-33 passing. Victor Campbell had six catches for 80 yards and a touchdown and KeAndre Stewart had four catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.

Kewone Thomas threw for 94 yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-12 passing and added 92 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Phillips finished with 123 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.

As expected, the opening half was a back-and-forth affair with Lufkin controlling the first quarter before John Tyler bounced back in the next 12 minutes. A Lufkin touchdown just before the half gave the home team a six-point lead headed into halftime.

On the Panthers' first drive of the game, they stuck to the ground to put their first points on the board.

Running 77 yards on nine carries, Lufkin put the ball in the end zone for the first time on a Thomas one-yard QB sneak that made it 7-0 four minutes into the game.

Lufkin's defense forced a punt on the following drive before the Pack went back on the attack, this time through the air.

The Panthers got going with a 31-yard pass from Thomas to Polk, and two plays later, Thomas hit a wide-open Jackson over the middle for a 28-yard score and a 14-0 lead.

Lufkin drove to midfield and appeared ready to build a big lead before John Tyler came up with a stop on third and one that seemed to shift the momentum.

After that stop, John Tyler's Woods hit a wide-open Victor Campbell Jr. over the middle of the field for a 32-yard pass. That set up a near replay between the same two players for a 15-yard score that put the Lions on the board, trailing 14-7 with 4:40 left in the first half.

John Tyler pulled even when Roderick Hawkins went untouched for an 18-yard touchdown run that made it 14-14 in the final minute of the half.

However, Lufkin's offense, which had been stagnant for the entire quarter, came to life to give the Panthers the lead before halftime.

John Tyler helped Lufkin start of the drive with back-to-back 15-yard penalties before Polk caught a 21-yard pass from Thomas.

Two plays later, Thomas threw into double coverage in the end zone, but when the ball was tipped, Jackson came up with a nice 17-yard touchdown to give the lead back to the Panthers. The extra point was wide left, but Lufkin still held a 20-14 lead headed into the half.

In the first half, Thomas ran for 66 yards and a touchdown and also threw for 93 yards and a pair of scores, both going to Jackson.

John Tyler was led by Hawkins, who ran for 56 yards and a touchdown on five carries. Campbell led John Tyler's receivers with two catches for 47 yards and a score.

The Panthers started the second half with a flurry with each area of the game getting in on the act.

Lufkin's defense started the half with a defensive stop before Jackson returned the following punt 41 yards. The Panthers were forced to settle for a 30-yard Rodrigo Molina field goal that upped the margin to 23-14.

On the following kickoff, a hard hit forced a fumble and Foster Mastin was there to recover deep inside Lions' territory.

On the next play, Thomas went untouched for an 8-yard touchdown run that made it 30-14 with 6:50 still left in the third quarter.

Lufkin's defense kept the momentum going with another defensive stop and Jackson continued to torment the John Tyler defense as he took a handoff and raced 60 yards for a touchdown that made it 37-14 with 2:55 left in the third quarter.

The Lions' offense was finally able to come up with the big play as Woods hit Kitan Crawford for a 55-yard pass. Hawkins did the work from there, scoring on a four-yard run that made it 37-21 with 1:59 left in the third quarter.

John Tyler made it a game once again when Woods hit Keandre Street for a 26-yard touchdown that made the score 37-27. However, the two-point conversion failed, leaving it at a two-score game.

Michael Givens-Washington then came up with plays on both sides of the ball to move John Tyler within three points.

With the Panthers driving for another score, Givens-Washington got an interception and returned it to midfield. He then came up with a 14-yard touchdown reception from Woods on third down that cut the margin to 37-34 with 6:12 still left in the game.

The Panthers were finally able to put the tide back in their direction when Phillips took a handoff and raced up the middle for 57 yards for a score that increased the lead back to double digits at 44-34 with 4:05 remaining in the game.

John Tyler was able to move the ball down to the Lufkin 4 in the final minute before turning the ball over on downs as Lufkin sealed the win.

John Tyler (2-1) will travel to Rockwall for its district opener on Friday night. Lufkin will round out non-district action on Friday as it hosts Monterrey Tech.

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