Lufkin fans will remember the playoff thrillers that put the exclamation point on a season for the ages. However, the night Panthers proved to themselves that they can play with the state’s best came early in the 2001 season.
The Panthers entered the game coming off a pair of subpar performances to start the season. Aldine Eisenhower entered as the No. 3 team in the state. Adding in the fact that Eisenhower had humbled Lufkin in a 49-21 decision on the Panthers’ 2000 homecoming night, a Pack loss could have left some lingering doubts. Thanks to another stifling night from the defense, those doubts were laid to the rest as the Panthers gutted out a 10- 9 thriller over one of the best teams the state had to offer.
It was a night of retribution for the players who had suffered one of their worst defeats of the decade just a season earlier. A Lufkin defense that was decimated by Eisenhower’s potent ground attack a season earlier stood its ground this time around as the Eagles were held to 158 rushing yards, an average of less than four yards per carry. In fact, two of Eisenhower’s nine points came on a first-quarter safety.
With that ground game contained, Eisenhower couldn’t use its usual attack. All of that effort was needed to give the Panthers’ offense a chance to make enough plays for the win. Lufkin completed only one pass on the night but was able to garner 136 rushing yards.
Lufkin failed to score a first-half touchdown for the third straight week, allowing Eisenhower to pick up a 9-0 advantage. The Eagles scored on a blocked kick that turned into a safety and an Edgar Miller touchdown run for a 9-0 lead. The Panthers, who couldn’t generate much offense throughout the night, went to a trick play with Quentin Holman running a reverse for 67 yards to narrow the gap to 9-7. Stephen Coker then came through with another one of his clutch field goals, this one from 39 yards, to put the Pack on top 10-9.
The Panthers continued to hold their ground, holding Aldine Eisenhower offense at bay for the rest of the night. It was a win that proved both to Lufkin and the rest of the state that Lufkin was no fluke. It also proved that the Panthers could compete with one of the best programs in the state.