LONGVIEW - Longview's first season under Pat Collins came to a disappointing end Friday night as the Lobos closed out the 2000 football campaign with a 30-22 loss to Lufkin.
However, the Lobos made a ballgame out of it before a sold-out crowd at Lobo Stadium. It just wasn't enough to overcome Reggie McNeil, the district's top quarterback, who threw for 208 yards and three touchdowns for the Panthers.
Longview finished at 3-7 and 1-4 in District 12-5A, while Lufkin improves to 7-3 and 1-4. The Panthers advance to the Division II playoffs where they will face either Carter or Kimball out of Dallas.
"I'm disappointed we lost the football game," said Collins, "but not with the effort. It's that kind of effort that will eventually pay off. I think we've made great strides.
"I'm excited about going into the offseason. We've only been here about six months."
Defense will be a big concern for Longview during the offseason. Big plays by the Panthers played a big role. McNeal, scrambling, threw touchdown passes of 32, 23 and 36 yards. He finished 10 of 17 for the game.
Jay Taylor added five receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown.
However, the Lobos will also look to their top airman, Willie Andrews. But the Longview split end, who entered with a 12-5A-best 40 receptions, didn't catch any passes. He did it all on the group with 163 yards on 24 carries. The junior also scored on a 2-yard run late in the ballgame to narrow the deficit.
Joel Armstrong's run on a two-point conversion drew the Lobos within eight with 3:40 remaining. Longview had one last opportunity with 1:42 to play, but that ended when Justin Kegler picked off an Armstrong pass near midfield.
The Lobos rallied from a 13-0 deficit late in the second quarter to take a brief lead at 14-13.
A 1-yard quarterback keeper by Armstrong and a 27-yard scoring completion by sophomore quarterback to DeManuel Fletcher, while being flusher out of the pocket, tied the contest. Alex Cammack gave Longview its only lead with the second of extra points as 56 seconds were left on the clock before half-time.
But the Panthers regained the lead as they drove 69 yards in the waning seconds. Stephen Coker booted through a 19-yard field goal as time expired. The Lufkin kicker got a second opportunity after missing a 22-yarder when the Lobos were flagged for being offsides.
McNeal's 33-yard bootleg run keyed the six play drive.
Longview could have gone back in front on its opening drive of the second half, but Cammack's 25-yard attempt came up short of the crossbar.
Lufkin then answered as McNeal hit Quentin Holman, again scrambling to his left under defensive pressure, for a 23-yard touchdown. The Panthers ran nearly five minutes off the clock on their 90-yard drive.
McNeal hooked up with Jeremie Berry for 36 yards with 6:18 remaining giving Lufkin a 16-point advantage. The drive saw the Panthers reach the Longview 2 on first-and-goal. However, three straight penalties moved the ball back, before McNeal delivered in the clutch.
"I could make a lot of excuses, but I'm not going to," Collins said. "We got a lot of work to do."
The Panthers scored their first touchdown as McNeal and Taylor connected for 3 yards with 1:36 showing in the first quarter. Terry Williams their an in from 7 yards at the 10:23 mark of the second quarter, but Coker was wide on the point-after.