LUFKIN - Unlike last year's 10-all tie, a winner was determined here Friday night at Abe Martin Stadium as Lufkin clawed out a much-needed win over Longview 15-6.
Lufkin's win pulls it into a three-way tie for second place in District 13-5A with both Longview and Tyler at 3-1. Marshall, with a 19-16 win over John Tyler, takes over sole possession of first place.
In scoring, the Panthers can thank the toe of junior John Carter, whose 39-yard field goal with 8:22 to play in the final quarter helped shut the door on the Lobos.
But, it was Lufkin's defense, which crippled Longview's offensive attack, holding the Lobos to their lowest output of the season, 127 yards. Most of which came in the first half. After intermission they could produce only 23 yards.
Longview was hurt by the Panthers' pass rush, which sacked quarterback Mike Bobo for a minus-38 yards.
"I thought Lufkin really played well defensively, we just couldn't get anything going (offensively)," Longview coach Doug Cox said dejectedly. "I thought our defensive kids fought their hearts out and, boy, they played with their backs up against the wall the whole second half. They held them out (of the end zone) and blocked a field goal.
"We stopped them time after time after time. We just couldn't excuse offensively and get the job done. Those (Lufkin) kids just played well, they just gained momentum on us and we never could gain it back," Cox added.
All three touchdowns of the game came in the first half. But, in the second half Longview's defense rose numerous times to kill a Panther drive.
Warren Smith blocked an earlier field goal try by Lufkin's Carter, a 35-yard effort with 2 seconds left in the third quarter. Longview's defense also forced the ball over on downs early in the quarter when fullback James Flourney was stopped on a fourth-and-one play.
In the fourth quarter, Carter missed a 28-yard field goal.
Longview's only scoring threat of the second half came on its first series trailing 12-6. Beginning at its own 19-yard line, the Lobos marched down the field behind a series of reverses and trap plays. After a 9-yard pass from Bobo to wingback Eric Faggett, the Lobos faced a second-and-three play at Lufkin's 21-yard line.
On third down tailback Earnest Hunter was stacked up at the line. With a little more than seven minutes left in the quarter Faggett took a reverse from Bobo only to be stopped one yard short of gaining four next downs on a fourth down call.
"I think a crucial turning point was that fourth-and-three (play). I thought boy, we had the scheme that would work," Cox explained. "They hung their corner inside of going with the motion - I thought all they've ever seen us do is the flip - and the boy (defensive end Chris Henry) stayed at home,"
A Lufkin fumble with 2:17 left int he first half proved the early difference as the two teams headed into the dressing room with the Panthers up 12-6.
Curl had been hit at the 1-yard line by linebacker Mark Saurette who forced Curl's fumble.
Longview's inability to find the loose ball was indicative of Lufkin's drive as the Lobos contributed 30 yards of penalties - a late hit and face mask call.
Longview, which has failed only once this season to produce points in its initial possessions, fell behind 6-0 before evening the score in the team's fourth series of the game.
Ray Allison finished out a 55-yard, 10-play drive with 5:37 before the close of the half. It took the Lobos four plays inside the Panthers' 10-yard line to produce the six points.
Lufkin had opened the scoring with 2:21 to play in the first quarter as it used the running of Flourney to travel 52 yards in nine plays. The Panthers had taken possession of the ball after Longview's fake punt attempt went for bill.
Flourney pounded out 30 yards on the ground, before Curl pitched to Michael Carroll trailing the play on an option inside the 10. Carroll was caught short of the end zone on a touchdown-saving tackle by cornerback Fred Thompson.
One play later, Cedric Walker broke the plane as the Panthers grabbed a 6-0 lead.
Both extra-point attempts by Lufkin and Longview failed in the first half. The Panthers also failed to convert the two-point conversion try following their second score.
Offensively for Lufkin,t he Panthers racked up 239 yards, including 226 not he ground. Curl was the leading rusher with 107 yards on eight carries. Flourney also chipped in 65 yards on 18 attempted.
Leading the Lobos' ground attack was tailback Carl Johnson, who garnered 55 yards on nine carries.
Faggett contributed 52 yards combined rushing and receiving to help pace the Lobos' efforts.
The loss drops Longview to 5-2 on the season. Next Friday they will play host to league-leading Marshall in another crucial district battle.
"This was a big one here. We dropped some passes and didn't pass block," Cox said. "These guys played well. You just have to give them credit. I thought our kids played hard. I saw some defensive plays that were just super and a few offensive plays that looked good. If we just could have won this, it really would have been a key victory."