One for the ages: Rain, cold, Euless Trinity can’t turn away Panthers

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Just minutes after walking off the field following one of the most memorable games in Lufkin football history, the Nelly lyrics “What does it take to be No. 1?” blared in the Pack locker room.

The Panthers had spent the last three hours answering that exact question. Playing against a bigger Euless Trinity team in the middle of a monstrous rain storm in near freezing temperatures, even a 20-point deficit wasn’t going to keep the Panthers from their quest for No. 1.

Jeremie Berry’s 33-yard catch capped off a comeback for the ages as the Panthers clinched a spot in the state title game with a 27-23 win over the Trojans.

In a playoff run that was filled with potential potholes, the Panthers seemed to be down and out in this one.

A physically imposing Euless Trinity team ran up and down the field in the early going with Chupee Joe scoring on a pair of short touchdown runs for a 13-0 lead.

Then on the last play of the second quarter, Euless Trinity seemed to be on the verge of a laugher when Charles Oliver returned a punt 69 yards for a 20-0 lead.

That lead stayed at 20-0 throughout the second quarter as Lufkin couldn’t find any answer for a Trinity defense that seemed to have its number.

On a cold day with the rain slowing down the offenses, it seemed like quite a test for the Panthers to even make it a game.

However Reggie McNeal set the tone for an eventual comeback when he dragged two defenders the final 10 yards of a 56-yard run. He followed that with a four-yard touchdown run that gave Lufkin some life, facing a 20-7 deficit.

That momentum almost went out the window on the next drive when Joe, who finished with 158 yards, broke into the Lufkin secondary. However, a determined Velton Kirksey chased him down, keeping Euless Trinity from seizing control of the game once again.

The Trojans eventually settled for a short field goal that made it 23-7.

Lufkin took advantage of that on the next drive with Terrance Parks going up over the defense for a 23-yard touchdown reception. Terrance Mott caught the two-point conversion, which pulled Lufkin within a single score at 23-15 with 4:20 still left in the third quarter.

The defenses took over from there until late in the fourth quarter when Parks came up with another touchdown reception, this one from 10 yards out, narrowing the margin to 23-21. However one more opportunity seemed to slip through their fingers as the Panthers came up a few feet short on a two-point conversion try.

Lufkin’s defense made sure that wouldn’t be the final chance as it stopped Euless Trinity on a fourth and short.

It was all history from there as McNeal hit Jeremie Berry over the middle for a 33-yard scoring strike that capped off one of the Panthers’ most unlikely wins in school history.

McNeal finished the game with 180 yards and a touchdown on the ground to go along with 158 yards and three scores through the air.

Berry, who did the majority of his damage in the playoffs, had four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.

With the win, Lufkin set up a state championship matchup with Austin Westlake, a team that had just ended Vince Young’s high school career with a 48-42 thriller that same week.

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