Any season-ending loss is a tough one. For the 2016 Lufkin Panthers, their bi-district loss to the John Tyler Lions was simply excruciating.
In a game that went back and forth the entire night, Lufkin found itself a two-point conversion away from standing on the doorstep of a first-round victory.
But when the two-point conversion was off the mark, the Panthers were on the wrong side of another game for the ages, dropping a 50-49 decision to the Lions at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
It was a loss the Panthers won’t soon forget but also one the Panthers know they can’t erase.
“Of course that one doesn’t sit well,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said in the weeks leading up to the 2017 season. “But what happens when we play again doesn’t change that one. This will be another chance for us to get ready for district.”
Many of the names have changed from last season’s game.
John Tyler QB Bryson Smith was a nightmare for the Pack as he threw for 380 yards and three scores and ran for another 190 yards and three touchdowns. He has since moved on to the University of Houston.
Damion Miller caught eight passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in the win. He was committed to Texas although he is now at Navarro College.
On Lufkin’s side of the ball, Kordell Rodgers threw for 223 yards and two scores and ran for 69 yards and two more touchdowns. He is now playing at Texas State.
There are also some faces that return from last year’s game.
On Lufkin’s side, Malik Jackson had eight receptions for 108 yards and added an electric 100-yard kickoff return when John Tyler appeared ready to put the game away early.
For John Tyler, Devien Woods had five receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown.
In that game, the two teams combined for 1,087 yards and 99 points. But it was a defensive play that sealed the game.
After the Panthers had erased a 43-28 fourth-quarter deficit, Rodgers scored on a 13-yard run with 1:21 remaining.
Instead of opting for a game-tying extra point, Lufkin elected to go for the two-point conversion and the win. John Tyler came up with the stop to send Lufkin to another first-round defeat.
“Every year is a new game and new teams,” Quick said. “It’s always good to play them and they’re going to make you better.”
Kickoff for Friday night’s game is set for 7:30 at John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium.