Lufkin’s Defense Comes Up Big in Crucial 31-21 District Victory Over Conroe Oak Ridge
[By Josh Havard, Special to ETSN.fm]
SHENANDOAH - It took nearly two months for an opponent to solve the Lufkin Panthers' high-octane offense. Thanks to a rejuvenated and hard-hitting defense, it didn't matter.
With Lufkin's attack held in check, the Panthers' defense stole the show, making play after play in a key 31-21 win over the Oak Ridge War Eagles at Woodforest Bank Stadium on Friday night.
Lufkin's defense came up with a season-high four interceptions and made four stops on fourth down to lead the Panthers on a night Oak Ridge provided quite a challenge.
'We played excited and we made big plays," Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. "Kids that haven't been making plays were making plays out there. It's good to see them with smiles on their faces."
The Panthers held Oak Ridge to a total of 320 yards just a week after giving up 800 the previous week.
That proved to be necessary on a night when Lufkin's offense was held to a season low in points.
Kordell Rodgers threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions on 19-of-34 passing. His top target was Dhaillon Phillips, who had 10 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. Malik Jackson had five receptions for 59 yards and a score.
"The offense isn't going to click every time," Quick said. "We've been clicking for seven weeks now and it didn't happen tonight."
For the first time, Lufkin's offense was slowed down in the first half as it was held to a total of 141 total yards. Fifty-three of that came on the opening drive when Lufkin took an early lead.
Rodgers was held to 106 yards on 11-of-22 passing with a touchdown. The running game was slowed down with a total of 35 yards on 16 carries.
Meanwhile Oak Ridge's offense was able to overcome its own slow start to dominate the second quarter.
The Panthers got off to a quick start with Dhaillon Phillips making a nice return near midfield.
Lufkin got on the board on a third and long as Rodgers hit Malik Jackson on a perfect 25-yard pass that made it 7-0 just two minutes into the game.
That proved to be the offense's lone highlight of the first half as it was held to a total of 88 yards over the next 22 minutes.
The Panthers' defense hung tough early with Demond McKelvey making an interception and the Panthers forcing a turnover on downs and a punt on the opening three drives.
However, Oak Ridge's offense began to impose its will by scoring on its first two drives of the second quarter.
The War Eagles put together a 16-play drove that went 81 yards and took 7:09 off the clock before Reinard Britz hit Kyle Townsend on a nice six-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 7-7.
Isaiah Phillips returned the following kickoff to the Oak Ridge 28 before the War Eagles forced a turnover on downs.
The Oak Ridge offense took advantage of that by driving 70 yards on eight plays. The drive was capped off when Britz hit Darrius Jelks on a nice long pass. Jelks made a Lufkin defender miss then ran the rest of the way for a 44-yard touchdown that gave Oak Ridge its first lead at 14-7.
Lufkin had a chance to tie the game just before the half before turning the ball over on downs.
After the rough first half, Lufkin finally got the big play early in the first half as Carl Williams came through with a blocked punt that Oak Ridge eventually recovered at its own 4 yard line.
Tre Grant scored on a three-yard run two plays later to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:53 left in the third quarter.
Oak Ridge's defense continued to make the big plays as it forced a three and out and two turnovers on the Panthers following three drives.
The War Eagles finally pushed its way to the lead as Grant Stuard went untouched for a 28-yard touchdown run that gave them a 21-14 lead with 2:23 left in the third quarter.
Oak Ridge had the chance to put the game away as it drove into Lufkin territory before the Panthers' Jimarion Horace came up with an interception and returned it to the War Eagles' 40-yard line.
Three plays later, Rodgers hooked up with Phillips for a 23-yard touchdown that tied the game at 21-21 with 8:43 left in the game.
The Panthers' defense once again came through by forcing Oak Ridge to punt.
Lufkin's offense took advantage with a 10-play 61-yard drive that featured a pair of big catches by Dhailon Phillips and a big run by Isaiah Phillips.
The Panthers eventually had to settle for a Rodrigo Molina 27-yard field goal for a 24-21 advantage.
Lufkin finally sealed the deal with Jadrian Taylor coming up with a hard hit on a sack on fourth down.
On the following play, Isaiah Phillips, who made several big plays for the defense, came through with a 21-yard touchdown run that made the final score 31-21.
Lufkin (5-3, 2-2) returns to action on Friday night as it hosts Conroe. Oak Ridge (4-5, 2-3) will be back in action for its regular season finale as it hosts Beaumong West Brook on Thursday night.