MAGNOLIA – When the fifth-ranked Lufkin Panthers are at their best, they’re nearly impossible to beat.

They proved that once again on Friday night as they turned a District 8-5A Division showdown into another mismatch on their way to a 31-7 win over the Magnolia West Mustangs at Mustang Stadium.

Using a hard-hitting defense that pressured John Matocha throughout the night, the Panthers imposed their will on a Magnolia West team that came into the game with an offense that averaged 53 points per game.

“We knew this was a good team and we had to take it to them if we wanted to win,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. “We played hard from the first play and kept hitting them the whole game. I don’t think you could fault the effort at all.”

With the win, Lufkin (7-1, 5-0) moves a single win away from the district title. It finishes the year with Caney Creek and Waller, two teams that entered Friday winless in district action.

Prior to Friday night’s game, Magnolia West (6-2, 4-1) had scored at least 40 points in each of its first seven games. In addition, it was averaging over 500 yards per game.

They never came close to those numbers on a night they gained a total of 282 yards. Matocha led the way with 240 yards and a touchdown on 23-of-32 passing but was hit constantly throughout the game.

“We executed on both sides of the ball as well as in the kicking game,” Quick said. “That’s a good team and a great quarterback. We had to take them out of their game plan.”

Lufkin’s offense was paced by Qu’vontae Smallwood, who ran for 155 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Kewone Thomas added 213 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-14 passing.

With Adam Holden and Carl Williams recording sacks on the first possession of the night, Lufkin’s defense was able to set the tone for a hard-hitting half of action.

Following the opening stop, Smallwood raced untouched for a 74-yard touchdown run for a quick 7-0 lead.

The Panthers moved to the Magnolia West 1 on the following drive before settling for a 27-yard Leo Acevedo field goal that made it 10-0.

Following yet another defensive stop, Lufkin’s Smallwood scored on a 10-yard touchdown run that upped that margin to 17-0.

The Mustangs finally found their high-powered offense on the next drive as Matocha found a wide open Payton Finch for a 40-yard touchdown pass, narrowing the margin to 17-7.

Lufkin’s offense answered with Torrance Agnew hauling in a 17-yard touchdown from Thomas on a fade route to the right corner of the end zone that upped the margin to 24-7.

Magnolia West’s hurry-up offense drove the ball to the Lufkin 1 before another Panthers’ sack ended the threat and the half with the Panthers on top 24-7.

Smallwood had a huge first half with 148 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while Thomas threw for 147 yards and a score on 7-of-9 passing.

The Panthers outgained the dynamic Magnolia West offense 320-187 in the opening half.

Lufkin made it a 31-7 game midway through the third quarter when Christian Reggie scored on a 21-yard touchdown run.

The Panthers will be back in action on Friday night when they host Caney Creek.

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