NACOGDOCHES - Longview had taken advantage of turnovers all season, but it was the Lobos’ own miscues that saw an undefeated season come to an end as Lufkin rallied for a 31-21 regional semifinal victory before a record crowd Saturday afternoon at Homer Bryce Stadium.
The Lobos closed out their run at 12-1, while Lufkin improves to 13-0 and advances to face Cedar Park in a Region II, Class 5A Division II final at a site and time to be determined. Cedar Park knocked off Mesquite 31-28 on Friday.
A crowd of more than 27,000 eclipsed the stadium record of 23,657 set in 1999 between Stephen F. Austin and McNeese State. The win by the Panthers was the ninth straight over the Lobos, who last beat Lufkin in 1998.
“Five turnovers against a great football team like Lufkin really hurts you,” said Longview head coach John King. “They made points out of three of them at times we were moving the ball, where we just stopped ourselves. They created a lot of them.
“The defense came up with big stop after big stop. The time of possession hurt us in the first half. They (Lufkin) were out there 15 minutes, and were only out there (on offense) maybe nine. They were getting battered and bruised, but they kept playing hard, even to the bitter end. If we could have held them to a field goal there at the end, we may have had a chance - that’s what the kids were thinking.”
The Panthers turned four Longview fumbles and one interception into 17 points, 14 coming in the fourth quarter as Lufkin overcame a 21-17 deficit. Jorvorskie Lane scored twice - once on a 3-yard carry to give his team the lead, and then late in the contest for a 10-point advantage.
Lane scored all four touchdowns for Lufkin while rushing for a hard-earned 140 yards on 33 carries. The Texas A&M-bound senior also caught three passes for 22 yards, and was 1-for-3 passing, but the lone completion for 9 yards set up a key first down as the Panthers regained the lead at 24-21.
“He’s just a great athlete,” King said of Lane. “They put him all over the field. Sometimes it looked like backyard football out there. They do a great job with what they do, where we had to defend the whole field.”
Lobo tailback Vondrell McGee rushed for 183 yards on 18 carries and scored twice, while quarterback Carlin Freeman ran for 115 yards on 13 carries. He also completed 6 of 11 passes for 71 yards, with one TD and an interception. McGee’s total put him over 2,000 yards for the season.
Lufkin also got 98 yards passing from Jacovey Smallwood on 14 of 25 completions and one interception. On the ground, he picked up an additional 91 yards on 13 carries.
Malcolm Kelly had given the Lobos the lead with 3:48 left in the third quarter on a 6-yard fade route. The University of Oklahoma recruit caught his ninth touchdown of the season on a third-and-goal play. The drive covered 80 yards in nine plays.
Longview’s defense came right back and forced a punt, and the Lobos had a first down at their own 45. However, on the next play they turned the ball over for the fourth time. Lufkin then marched 48 yards in nine plays with Lane lining up at quarterback on three straight plays, the biggest being a 10-yard pass to De’Andre Wallace on third-and-four.
The Panthers picked up a first down at the two, with Lane then covering the final distance. Lufkin led 24-21 with 7:48 remaining in the game.
Freeman brought Longview right back and the Lobos had a first down at their own 42. Facing third-and-five two plays later, Ashford Ayers picked off a pass in front of Kelly as Lufkin took over possession.
“I thought he played his tail off,” King said of Freeman. “All the guys, really. Just a gritty bunch of guys. They just gave us a chance to win. We had the ball down there with less than six minutes to go and down by three, and they pick the ball off. It was a great play on their kid’s part.”
Lane again led the way for Lufkin, including a key first down pickup on fourth-and-four. Lane then put the game away with a dive through the middle. Jami Fernandez’s point-after lifted the Panthers to a 31-21 advantage with 1:53 to play.
Lufkin took its first lead on the game on its opening possession of the second half. The Panthers drove 55 yards in 10 plays with Lane scoring from 13 yards out.
If not for three first-half fumbles, the Lobos might have taken bigger than a four-point lead into the dressing room at halftime. All three came with Longview driving.
However, the Panthers managed to turn just one of them into points - a 36-yard field by Fernandez to bring Lufkin to within four, 14-10.
Longview jumped out to a 14-0 lead behind two huge running plays. A 67-yard run by Freeman that gave the Lobos a first-and-10 at the Panther 13. McGee then carried 12 yards to the 1, and burst over one play later.
On the Lobos’ next series, McGee broke loose for a 65-yard scoring run. The drive followed a 67-yard, wind-aided punt by Lane that went through the end zone for a touchback. It took Longview just two plays to score and take a two-touchdown lead.
The Panthers then got on the scoreboard behind the running of Lane, who lined up at quarterback twice - including the 1-yard plunge into the end zone. The drive covered 57 yards in 13 plays.
Lane returned the Lobo kickoff 33 yards, then had runs of 11, 4, 3, 11 and a reception of 11 yards to give Lufkin its first touchdown with 6:11 to play before halftime.
Lufkin had a late chance to take the lead in the closing minute after it used its three timeouts on defense, forcing a punt by the Lobos. On first down, Smallwood heaved a deep pass that bounced off the hands of E.J. Shankle, who had gotten behind Longview’s secondary.
The Panthers also had a first down at the Lobo 24, following a run by Smallwood and a 15-yard personal foul called against Longview. However, on the next play, DeKendrick Campbell stepped in front of a Smallwood pass in the end zone for the interception.