LUFKIN – Facing a dangerous McKinney North Mustangs team, the Lufkin Panthers took their share of hard hits in falling on three different occasions in the first half.

Once the Panthers’ defense finally started delivering hits of its own, the Mustangs never stood a chance as Lufkin reeled off 30 unanswered points to turn a shootout into a runaway with a 50-21 victory in Class 5A DI Region II Bi-District playoff action at Abe Martin Stadium on Friday night.

Qu’Vontae Smallwood ran for 180 yards on 17 carries and Kewone Thomas threw for 185 yards and three touchdowns to lead a Lufkin offense that put up 541 total yards of offense.

However, Lufkin couldn’t rest easy until the defense put up a half of domination after being rattled in the first half.

“The first one is tough because you have to get used to the mindset of win or go home,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. “I thought we made some good adjustments at the half and rolled from there.”

The offenses ran wild in a first half that featured 48 points and six lead changes.

Lufkin took advantage of an early McKinney North turnover that set up a Leo Acevedo 22-yard field goal for a 3-0 advantage.

The Mustangs answered with a 17-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a Dillon Markiewicz 6-yard touchdown run for a 7-3 lead.

Lufkin responded on the following offensive play with Titan Williams shaking off a pair of defenders in the backfield before running for a 61-yard touchdown to give the Panthers the lead for the second time at 10-7.

Lufkin’s lead grew to 6 points with Acevedo connecting on a 39-yard field goal for a 13-7 lead.

McKinney North responded with Noah Ford making a 4-yard touchdown reception from Markiewicz that put the Mustangs on top 14-13.

Lufkin once again had the answer with Torrance Agnew catching a 7-yard touchdown in the corner of the end zone to make it 20-14.

McKinney North came right back with Emmanuel Fincher scored on a 5-yard touchdown run that put the Mustangs on top for the third time at 21-20.

Lufkin came through with a clutch score before the half as Christian Reggie found himself wide open for a 48-yard catch before Ja’Lynn Polk made a spectacular 16-yard touchdown reception that made it 27-21 at the half.

After recovering an onside kick to start the second half, McKinney North couldn’t take advantage as a 43-yard field goal fell well short.

The Panthers responded by making it a two-score game when Acevedo made a 22-yard field goal with 5:36 left in the quarter, making the score 30-21.

Lufkin made it 36-21 in spectacular fashion as Thomas hit Christian Reggie for a 26-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 16 with 11:48 remaining.

Lufkin’s defense continued to dominate the second half as DeVandre Houston fell on a fumble at the McKinney North 1 and Thomas snuck it in from there to make the score 43-21 with nine minutes remaining.

The lead ballooned to 50-21 when Caleb Berry scored on a 16-yard touchdown run with 3:10 remaining.

McKinney North found the end zone for the first time in the second half when Brandon Frazier caught a four-yard touchdown pass that made the score 50-27 in the final three minutes.

Lufkin (10-1) advances to the area round of the playoffs where it will face Frisco Lone Star with a site and date to be announced.

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