[By JOSH HAVARD, Special to ETSN.fm]

LUFKIN -- A first half of exciting football turned into a second half of domination as The Woodlands Highlanders controlled both sides of the ball to turn a close game into a runaway on the way to a 45-21 win over the Lufkin Panthers in District 12-6A action at John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium on Friday night.

The teams exchanged blows for a first half that saw three lead changes and a string of momentum changers as the Panthers put a scare into the Highlanders in holding a 21-17 halftime lead.

But after the break, the Highlanders made the adjustments and dominated on both sides of the ball in scoring 28 unanswered points.

"They whipped our butt in the third quarter, and that's what got us," Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. "We got back in a hole and gave them a short field the whole third quarter."

Quinton Johnson threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-23 passing, and also added a 65-yard touchdown run. Texas Tech commit KeSean Carter had five receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown, and Lucas Summers added 91 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Meanwhile, Lufkin (4-2, 1-1) was held to a total of 58 yards on 30 plays in the second half after a strong first two quarters.

Malik Jackson caught eight passes for 92 yards, while Kewone Thomas threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-30 passing.

However, Lufkin was held to 40 rushing yards on 29 carries.

"You have to be able to run the football," Quick said. "Then we were able to throw the ball in the first half but we couldn't do it in the second half."

It looked like it could be a long night for the Panthers on the Highlanders' first offensive play of the night when Johnson faked a handoff to the running back and sprinted untouched for a 65-yard touchdown run for an early 7-0 lead.

Lufkin answered right back on the following drive on a drive dominated by Jackson. He started the night with a 14-yard reception, then made a diving 38-yard catch down to The Woodlands' 1.

That turned into points on the next play with Isaiah Phillips diving in for a one-yard score. A miscue on the extra-point try cost Lufkin the extra point, leaving the Pack in a 7-6 hole.

The Panthers were able to stop The Woodlands (2-1, 1-0) on the next drive when they forced a turnover before The Woodlands forced a Lufkin punt.

The Highlanders were able to make the most of a long field, taking the ball at their own 8 before driving it 90 yards in 11 plays. However, they were forced to settle for a 19-yard Fabrizio Pinton field goal that extended the margin to 10-6.

The Panthers quickly got the momentum back on the following play with Jackson fielding the kick three yards deep in his own end zone and returning it 57 yards. A 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the Highlanders' 31.

Lufkin's offense capitalized on that field position with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Ja'Lynn Polk that gave the Pack its first lead of the game. Phillips carried in the two-point conversion, making the score 14-10 with 10:37 remaining in the half.

That lead didn't last long as the Highlanders drove 51 yards on four plays with Johnson hitting Connor Klapesky for a 10-yard touchdown and a 17-14 lead.

The Panthers had the answer with Titan Williams sneaking behind the Highlanders' defense and hauling in a 35-yard touchdown catch with one hand that put the Panthers on top for the second time at 21-17.

The Panthers' defense came up with another big play when Damond Moreland intercepted a pass at the goal line, sending Lufkin into the locker room with a four-point lead.

In the first half, Thomas completed 9-of-15 passes for 165 yards and a pair of catches with Jackson hauling in six of those passes for 91 yards.

Johnson led The Woodlands with 157 yards and a touchdown through the air to go along with 54 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Carter added four receptions for 89 yards.

The second half was a different story, starting with a trick play when Zayne Watson took a lateral and found a wide open Breyton Gilford for a 30-yard touchdown and a 24-21 lead.

Carter then found himself wide open for a 21-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to make it 31-21 after three quarters.

The Woodlands closed out the scoring in the fourth quarter on a 23-yard touchdown run from Summers and an 11-yard score from Klapesky that made the final 45-21.

Lufkin will have the week off before traveling to face Beaumont West Brook on Oct. 20.

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