LONGVIEW - Longview's bid for its first district championship since 1997 was undone by five turnovers as the Lufkin Panthers claimed their second title in three years with a 14-0 win over the Lobos here Friday night at Lobo Stadium.
The loss certainly spoiled "Senior night" as head coach Pat Collins recognized 38 senior football players, three student assistants and their parents in ceremonies prior to the start of the wet 2003 regular season finale. The Lobos do begin their second season next Saturday (Nov. 15) as they take on South Garland in a bi-district playoff game at Waco ISD Stadium in a 1 p.m. kickoff.
Longview finishes play in District 11-5A at 3-3 for the second year in a row. The Lobos will also take a 7-3 mark into the postseason. They were Region II finalist a year ago, posting a 10-4 record. This is the third straight playoff appearance under Collins.
The defeat also overshadowed a 134-yard rushing effort by Jerrel Williams, who carried the ball 20 times. Quarterback Carlin Freeman added 99 yards on 16 rushes, but the sophomore was just 4 of 15 passing for only 54 yards and two interceptions. Williams has been bothered by an ankle injury and sat out the second John Tyler game two weeks ago.
Lufkin (9-1, 5-1) scored early in the second quarter following a Lobo turnover, where Jorvorskie Lane ran in from 11 yards with 9:12 left on the clock before halftime. The Panthers then got a great return on the second half kickoff to midfield from E.J. Shankle, and marched 50 yards in four plays as Lane rumbled for 42 yards on three plays and Ashford Ayers finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run off a quarterback keeper.
Longview crossed into Panther territory six times, but came away with nothing as the Lobos fumbled twice, threw an interception, were forced to punt twice and had a field goal attempt blocked.
The deepest drive reached the Lufkin 14-yard line, however Longview wouldn't gain another yard as Williams was stopped for no gain and Freeman threw two incomplete passes. The Lobos then set up for a 30-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Howard, which was blocked at the line of scrimmage with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter.
"You can't turn the ball over against a team like that," Collins said. "We needed to do a better job holding onto the football, because they were pulling at it, tugging at it, trying to strip the ball.
"I still thought we played hard, so I'm not disappointed with the effort. I don't think we'll see a better team then that until we see them again."
Longview lost in the regional finals a year ago to Lufkin, 24-21, at Rose Stadium in Tyler. The Lobos have now lost eight in a row - three times in 2002 and twice already this season - to Lufkin. The last win over the Panthers came in 1998 in overtime at Lobo Stadium.
The Lobos ground out 275 yards on the ground, with Williams going over 100 yards for just the third time this season. He went into the game with 658 yards on 124 carries and 12 touchdowns. Chris Jones was held to 28 yards on nine carries.
Malcolm Kelly had only one reception which went for 18 yards; he now has 17 catches for 826 yards and six touchdowns. Tate Casey caught two passes for 31 yards to pace the Lobo receivers.
Lane, who leads the district in rushing, finished with 95 yards on 16 carries. He has only failed to go over 100 yards rushing in just two games, both times coming against the Lobos. Ayers was 8 of 14 for 101 yards passing, and ran for 54 yards on 17 carries. Ray Givens was the leading receiver with four catches for 83 yards.
Longview's defense had to take control with the offense sputtering. They forced Lufkin to punt five times, and held when punter Justin Rector pinned the Panthers deep by averaging 37.5 yards on four attempts. The Lobo unit also held when the offense fumbled at their own 39, and twice were able to force turnovers to keep the game within reach.
However, the red zone proved impenetrable for the Lobos.