LUFKIN - When it comes to Longview and Lufkin, the outcomes – particularly of late – have come down to a handful of plays and down to the wire.
After trading blows through 36 minutes of action for a deadlock after three quarters, those few plays showed up.
With the scoreboard reading 21-21 heading into the fourth quarter at Abe Martin Stadium, the Lufkin Panthers took advantage of a big special teams play and an even bigger play from its senior quarterback to seal a 35-24 win over Longview in the season opener for both teams.
“Both offensively, defensively and in special teams, we saw the good, the bad and the ugly in all three phases,” Longview head coach John King said. “It was a typical game with these guys that came down to five or six plays.”
Up by four points facing 4th and 7 at the Lobo 37, Kordell Rodgers scrambled for 34 yards, setting up his third overall touchdown of the night. The previous series, which gave the Panthers a 28-21 lead, was set up by a 99-yard kickoff return from the Panthers.
Longview senior running back Kendrevian White led the charge for the Lobos, rushing for 206 yards on 25 carries and a pair of touchdowns. Completing a one-two punch in the backfield, senior D’Crayvan Polk added the third Lobo touchdown on a one-yard punch in. He finished with 45 yards on the night.
Junior kicker Chris Kessler made a strong debut, drilling a 43-yard fourth-quarter field goal to go along with three touchbacks and four punts for an average of 36 yards, his first sailing 46 yards.
In total, Longview finished with 349 total yards – 317 coming on the ground – to outgain the Panthers by 29 total yards.
Lufkin snapped a three-game losing streak to the Lobos.
Rodgers, who missed the second half of play when the teams met in the 2015 postseason, accounted for three touchdowns overall – two on the ground and one through the air.
Both teams punted in their first possessions – the first of seven punts combined in through the first 24 minutes.
Lufkin was pinned at its own one on its opening possession following a bad snap, giving the Lobos position in positive territory on its second possession.
Converting two third downs, the tandem of White and Polk moved the ball with White punching in the six-yard score to put the Lobos ahead, 7-0 at the 5:31 mark.
Rodgers converted a third down with his legs and another through the air for 35 yards, setting up his first score of the night on a seven-yard run.
The next seven possessions combined ended with punts and one missed field goal from Lufkin.
Longview chewed up over five minutes off the clock before Lufkin’s Ariel Olvera picked off a pass – the lone turnover of the night either way. Two plays later, Rodgers hit Malik Jackson for a 75-yard score, sending the Panthers to halftime up 14-7.
After forcing a Lufkin punt to start the second half, White ripped off a 36-yard run, setting up his second score of the night from 15 yards out.
On the next possession, Rodgers connected with Javante Ellington and a Lobo flag tacked on 15 more. Kahlil Brown then put Lufkin up, 21-14, on a one-yard punch in.
Longview then went on the move – chewing up 6:06 off the game clock on a 14-play, 63-yard drive with Polk hammering in the equalizer.
Enter the special teams.
Jackson took the next kickoff 99 yards and brown converted it on the next play to give the Panthers its final lead.
Trajan Bush, who King credited with strong blocking, had a 43-yard run before the Lobo drive stalled at the 26-yard line where Kessler connected on a 43-yard field goal for a 28-24 Lufkin lead with 7:07 left.
It was then the Panthers – and Rodgers – turn to chew up the clock.
A pass interference call erased a third-down play, Rodgers converted a longfourth-down play before sealing it with a six-yard keeper with 1:36 left, sealing the Panthers’ home win.
The rivalry theme continues next week with Longview travelling to Marshall and Lufkin visiting Nacogdoches.