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Lufkin survives big-time scare from Spring Westfield>

In a long list of memories from a championship season, no Lufkin fan will forget sitting in the near freezing rain at Tyler’s Rose Stadium as the Panthers capped off a win for the ages over Euless Trinity.

Some don’t remember the fact that game almost never happened. Playing on a Friday night in the Astrodome, Lufkin led for less than 10 minutes against a talented Spring Westfield team.

However in the end, an exhausted group of Panthers stood tall, making one final defensive stand to preserve a 26-19 overtime win.

After the teams battled to a 19-19 tie in regulation, Lufkin was able to take the lead when Reggie McNeal dove in for a one-yard touchdown run.

That left the game in the hands of a tired Lufkin defense that had held its own for most of the night.

Facing a fourth and two, the Lufkin defense stopped Spring Westfield inches shy of a first down. That play set off a wild celebration for the Panthers as they survived a scare for the third straight week.

McNeal accounted for 300 yards for the Panthers while Williams had 70 yards and a touchdown.

The game had an ominous start as Westfield got an early field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Lufkin’s usually efficient special teams then gave up a big play to give the Mustangs even more life. With Lufkin lining up for a field goal, Spring Westfield blocked it and returned it 78 yards for a 10-0 advantage.

The Panthers slowly got back in the game, narrowing the margin to 10-6 on a pair of Stephen Coker 44-yard field goals.

Lufkin seemed to get a spark early in the second half when McNeal’s 51-yard run set up his own 22-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Parks for Lufkin’s 13-10 lead. That proved to be the Panthers’ only lead of regulation.

Spring Westfield tied the game on a field goal late in the third quarter then took the lead on a Lawrence Spencer 13-yard touchdown run.

The Mustangs kept the lead until late in the fourth quarter. A week after scoring on an interception return, Justin Kegler had a 41-yard punt return that set up a two-yard touchdown run from Billy McKelvey, tying the game at 19-19. However, the extra point was off the mark, sending the game to overtime.

In overtime, Williams had a 23-yard run to set up McNeal’s score before the defense came up with one final key play.

That win would send the Panthers on to a frigid Tyler Rose Stadium for a game that proved to be a signature victory for the 2001 Panthers.

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