LONGVIEW - Longview presented head coach Robert Bero a 40th birthday present by defeating Lufkin 21-16 Friday night at Lobo Stadium.
Junior tailback Andre Davis provided the wrapping paper with 168 yards and two touchdowns. But it was a staunch defensive effort led by Nick Richardson, Mike Reedy and Brian Chumley in the end that tied the knot for coach Bero.
Twice in the fourth quarter, Longview's defense was able to contain the Panthers and preserve the win. The Lobos needed an incomplete pass and a quarterback.
Friday's contest was the District 12-5A opener for both teams and the win improved the No. 3 state-ranked Lobos to 6-0 for the year. Lufkin lost for only the second time this season, falling to 4-2.
"That was a great win for our football team," said a jubilant Bero. "They grew up a lot tonight and took a big step forward in becoming a great football team."
Davis' second touchdown of the night, a 15-yard run with 6:20 to play, appeared to put the icing on the cake for the Lobos. Longview led 21-9 at that point.
But Lufkin came right back behind the passing of quarterback Eugene Jones. The junior completed 9 of 22 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.
The Panthers' only touchdown through the air, a 26-yard strike to a diving Jason Leeves in the end zone, put Lufkin within a touchdown of victory with 4:01 remaining. The 74-yard, 10-play drive was kept alive when punter Chad Alexander threw a 9-yard pass to Royse Jones on fourth-and-eight.
A successful onside kick by kicker Bart Baldwin, recovered by Brian Porter, gave the Panthers a first down at the Lobo 43. Aided by a four-yard loss on Dedrick Odom by Rodrick Taylor and an incomplete pass by Jones on fourth down, Longview regained possession with 2:47 showing.
The Lobos, behind the running of Davis, managed a first down on their next series and were able to take valuable time off the clock. But eventually they had to punt.
Starting at Longview's 18, Jones threw a 42-yard pass to Deundre Garcia, which took the Panthers into Lobo territory at the 40. Jones then took the snap and quickly threw it at the ground, stopping the clock with four seconds left.
However, the Panthers attempt at a "Hail Mary" never got out of Jones' hands as Richardson recorded the Lobos third sack of the contest as the clock expired.
The bulk of Longview's offensive punch rested in the feet of Davis, whose 168-yard effort on 33 carries was a career high. Starting with their third offensive series of the game, Davis and the Lobos were virtually unstoppable.
"We changed blocking up on the sweep to double-teaming at the point of attack," Bero said. "We were able then to give Andre a crease."
The Lobos extended their halftime advantage to 14-3 as quarterback Jason Dodson connected with John Washington for a 21-yard touchdown with 7:03 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers again came right back with a 77-yard, 15-play series as Dedrick Odom ran the final three yards. However, a two-point conversion attempt failed as Reedy tackled Jones short of the goal line.
Longview turned Davis loose in the first half as the Lobos led 7-3.
Davis carried for all but two plays of Longview's 79-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Starting at their own 21, the Lobos marched the distance in 12 plays with Davis going two yards for the touchdown.
Lufkin scored its points as Jones went to the air for 44 yards in a 9-play, 57-yard drive. After stalling at the five with 10 seconds left in the half, Baldwin came in to boot a 22-yard field goal.