Despite showing plenty of reason for optimism in the season opener against the Longview Lobos, a shaky finish left the Lufkin Panthers on the wrong side of a 19-point loss.
The Panthers found the remedy for that finish on Friday night by wearing down the Nacogdoches Dragons in the second half of a blowout victory of their own.
After falling in 7-0 and 14-7 holes, Lufkin dominated most of the second half, eventually scoring 21 straight points in the 45-28 win.
“I thought we played hard,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said following that win. “It takes a full 48 minutes against the teams we play and we were closer to that tonight.”
The Panthers showed plenty of positives on each side of the ball with the offense putting together several sustained drives and the defense holding its own for almost the entire night.
That effort led to Lufkin’s third straight win over Nacogdoches after the team had dropped back-to-back contests to the Dragons.
Here is a look back at Friday’s win.
Offense: The biggest positive from Friday’s win was the play of QB Kewone Thomas. He struggled for much of the opener and wasn’t helped by some key drops by his receivers in the loss to Longview.
It was a different story against Nacogdoches as he got into a rhythm in completing 20-of-26 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown. He also used his legs in running for a 24-yard touchdown.
Another key for Lufkin was a strong performance from a receiving corps that is expected to be the strength of the offense.
Malik Jackson caught eight passes for 71 yards and also scored on a 33-yard run on an end around.
Titan Williams, making his Lufkin debut, had three catches for 77 yards, including a key one that helped set up a Lufkin score just before the half.
Breylon Garcia added three receptions for 45 yards and Ja’Lynn Polk had two catches for 30 yards.
Meanwhile Isaiah Phillips continued to show he can be the workhorse on the Lufkin offense as he ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. He has 319 yards and five touchdowns through the first two games.
Defense: After wearing down late against Longview, the Lufkin defense was up to the task in the home opener, allowing just two drives of over 50 yards.
The Dragons got on the board first by taking advantage of a short field. Their only lengthy drive of the game came just before the half when a seven-play, 66-yard drive was capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jake Smith to James Sowards.
Another score came on an interception return and the last score came after a miscue by the Lufkin special teams.
For the game, Lufkin allowed a total of 346 yards of offense, including just 61 on 30 carries.
Special teams: A miscue on a punt allowed Nacogdoches to set up a late score after the game had already been decided.
However, Rodrigo Molina continued his strong early season play by connecting on a 25-yard field goal that sealed the game along with all six extra-point attempts.
In addition, Lufkin’s Jackson continued to be a threat in the return game.
Next up for Lufkin is a home game against John Tyler with a kickoff set for 7:30 on Friday night.