WILLIS – New district. Same results.

Opening up the District 8-5A DI slate, Lufkin overcame a four-turnover night with a punishing defense along with some strong play from a returning Kewone Thomas on the way to a 49-6 win over the Willis Wildkats Friday night.

Thomas, seeing his first action since last season’s playoffs due to a hand injury, threw for 179 yards and two scores and also added another two rushing touchdowns in lifting the Panthers to the lopsided win.

His top target was Ja’Lynn Polk, who caught seven passes for 163 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, Lufkin’s defense held Willis to a total of 205 yards and six points despite being on the field for 77 snaps.

The win was Lufkin’s third straight after a season-opening setback in Longview. It also provided a strong start in the newly-formed district.

It was all Lufkin from the start as the Panthers forced a three and out on the opening possession and Jamarcus Ingram recovered an errant snap in the end zone to give the Panthers a quick 7-0 lead.

Lufkin flirted with slamming the door on the Wildkats early but three snaps that hit the turf and a missed field goal kept it a one-score game.

The Panthers then turned to Thomas, who gave the Panthers a spark with him hitting Titan Williams, who turned a short gain into a 61-yard pick-up.

Thomas then scored on a 10-yard run that put the Panthers on top 14-0.

Following another defensive stop, Lufkin used the big play to set up a short Thomas touchdown run. Qu’Vontae Smallwood started the drive with a 29-yard run and Ja’Lynn Polk ran across the field for a 20-yard run. Thomas scored a one-yard run on the following play to make it 21-0 with 7:13 left in the half.

Lufkin’s next two drives ended with turnovers inside its own territory, but the defense stepped up once again in keeping the lead at 21.

In the opening half, Willis was held to a total of 39 yards on 40 snaps.

Meanwhile, Lufkin had 225 total yards of offense but was stymied by its own mistakes in keeping Willis somewhat within striking distance.

Lufkin’s offense hit its stride on the opening drive of the second half with Titan Williams scoring on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Thomas that made the score 28-0.

Willis drove to the Lufkin 2 before Ja’Vasia Brunson ended yet another scoring opportunity.

Willis finally got on the board when Ronald Finister caught an 18-yard scoring pass from C.J. Sprayberry, narrowing it to 28-6 with 10:01 remaining.

Lufkin answered with a three-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Christian Reggie that made the score 35-6.

A Tre Odom set the stage for another Lufkin score as Polk went over a Willis defender for a 17-yard touchdown that made it 42-6 with 4:29 left.

Lufkin made it 49-6 when Jadarius Moore scored on a six-yard run with 2:29 remaining.

Lufkin returns to action on Friday night as it hosts Magnolia for homecoming.

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