With heartbreaking losses in their last two trips to Nacogdoches, Dragon Stadium had become somewhat of a house of horrors for the Lufkin Panthers. On Friday night, the Pack made sure there would not be another repeat.
Kordell Rodgers, Kahlil Brown and Javante Ellington had huge games as the Panthers escaped with a 42-28 win over the Nacogdoches Dragons on Friday night.
On a night where Lufkin had a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver, it racked up 506 yards of total offense. Coach Todd Quick knew it could have been even more.
“It should have been 700 if not for some of the mistakes we made,” Quick said. “The effort was there, but we definitely could have played better.”
Rodgers had a big game for Lufkin 351 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-28 passing.
He spread the ball around to his receiving corps, which was led by Ellington with six catches for 115 yards and a
touchdown. Dhailon Phillips had five receptions for 99 yards and Malik Jackson had six catches for 73 yards and a score.
“Kordell was able to get the ball to a bunch of different guys and we worked some different guys in and out,” Quick said. “We were able to run well too. We just shot ourselves in the foot a few too many times.”
Meanwhile, Lufkin’s defense had its struggles but once again made the plays in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.
Noah Hildebrand threw for 212 yards for Nacogdoches and Phillip Jones ran for 130.
“I told Coach Reyes that since hes been there, the entire program has changed,” Quick said. “This is a tough place to play and you’re always happy to get a win.”
The first half featured an array of highlights nearly from the opening kickoff.
For the second straight week, Lufkin had a mishandled snap deep in its own territory. This time, Nacogoches’ Stephan Adams-Wooodson recovered it at the Lufkin 16 to give the Dragons early life.
However, the Panthers’ defense stood tall to force a field goal attempt.
The Panthers then came up with a huge special teams play with Savon Fields blocking a field goal attempt and Torrand Grisby returning it into Nacogdoches territory.
Five plays later, Rodgers threw a perfect 23-yard pass to Beau Atkinson for a 7-0 lead.
That momentum didn’t last long as the Dragons answwered with a 12-play, 76-yard drive with Phillip Jones scoring on a 23-yard touchdown run that knotted the game at 7-7 with 3:18 left in the first quarter.
Lufkin appeared ready to regain the lead when it took over in Nacogdoches territory early in the second quarter.
However, Nacogdoches’ Daryan Williams stripped the ball from Brown and recovered it to give the Dragons the ball near midfield.
Four plays later, Noah Hildebrand hit a wide-open Josh Thompson for a 32-yard score that gave the Dragons a 14-7 lead.
Lufkin wasn’t fazed. Facing a third and nine on the next possession, Rodgers found an open Javante Ellington over the middle. He outraced the Nacogdoches defense for a 67-yard touchdown, tying the game at 14-14 midway through the third quarter.
The game appeared headed to a halftime tie before Lufkin’s dynamic receivers flashed some big-time playmaking ability for some late second-quarter highlights.
With Lufkin facing a third and 17 from deep inside its own territory and time winding down, Rodgers threw a deep ball to Malik Jackson, who hauled in a spectacular 52-yard reception.
Two plays later, Rodgers found Breylon Garcia, who made another nice catch over a defender at the Nacogdoches 1 with two seconds remaining.
Rather than settle for the field goal, Lufkin gave the ball to Brown, who powered in for a one-yard score, giving the Pack a 21-14 lead on the last play of the first half.
Following the play, emotions spilled over as both teams were called for unsportsmanlike penalties. A Nacogdoches defender was also ejected from the game.
The Panthers had plenty of offensive firepower in the first half with Rodgers throwing for 204 yards and a pair of scores on 10-of-14 passing. Malik Jackson had four catches for 50 yards and Ellington had two catches for 83 yards and a score before the break.
Nacogdoches had a strong showing of its own with Hildebrand throwing for 84 yards and a touchdown and Phillip Jones running for 61 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Lufkin’s momentum from the last play of the first half carried over into the second half as it recovered a Nacogdoches fumble on the opening kickoff.
On the next play, Rodgers connected with Jackson for a 19-yard touchdown and a 28-14 advantage.
The teams followed by each failing to convert on fourth down.
Nacogdoches got itself back in the game on the next drive with Hildebrand finding a wide open Jaylon Douglas for a 60-yard touchdown pass. Fields blocked the extra point, leaving Lufkin with a 28-20 lead.
The Panthers took all of four plays and 80 yards to reestablish their two-score lead as Dhailon Phillips caught a 52-yard pass from Rodgers and Brown ran for a 16-yard score on the next play, making it 35-20 in Lufkin’s favor.
The Dragons offense continued to solve the Lufkin defense on the following drive, as it went 58 yards on five plays with Jones scoring on a three-yard run. Hildebrand then found Jaylon Maxie for the two-point conversion, narrowing the gap to 35-28 with 2:28 left in the game.
Lufkin continued the offensive fireworks on the following drive. Using a short field set up by a 47-yard kickoff return by Jackson, Brown plunged in for a touchdown on fourth and one to extend the margin to 42-28 early in the fourth quarter.
From there, Lufkin was able to hang on for the second straight win over a longtime rival.
The Panthers will now travel to Shreveport next Saturday to take on Parkway High, a Mississippi powerhouse. That game will be played at Independence Stadium at 4 p.m.