LUFKIN - Lufkin's football team is ranked No. 3 in the nation by the National Prep Football Poll. Ironically, Lufkin was about three plays better than Longview on Thursday.
Those three plays were three touchdown passes from quarterback Jeremy Claybon to Ralph Thomas, the last a 60-yard strike with 4:18 remaining to defuse a Longview rally and give Lufkin a 44-27 win before 9,000 spectators and a nationally televised audience at Abe Martin Stadium. Overshadowing his more publicized teammate, Dez Bryant, all receptions by Thomas went for touchdowns, including strikes of 37 and 44 yards. Thomas also had a 14-yard touchdown run for the Panthers.
The win gives Lufkin (5-0) its 10th consecutive win in the Lufkin-Longview series, and snapped a three-game winning streak for Longview.
It was also about three quarters of dominating football that was enough for Lufkin. The Panthers took a 37-7 lead with 10:01 left in the third quarter on a 31-yard field goal by Jaime Fernandez.
To the Lobos' credit, they continued to battle after being down by 30 points, and made the game interesting for the audience watching on Fox Sports Net. It started with an interception by Cody Morrow, which set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Mark Johnson with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
A fumble recovery by Dacorris Ford set up a one-yard touchdown plunge on a fourth-down play by Johnson with 10:31 remaining. A senior fullback, Johnson rushed for 110 yards and caught six passes for 71 yards.
Longview threatened to make it a one-score game when Chris Lacy returned a blocked field goal 78 yards for a touchdown with 5:23 remaining, but Jazmon Moon was stopped inches short on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, keeping the score at 37-27. The 60-yard scamper by Thomas ended Longview's comeback hopes.
Lufkin took a 20-7 lead when Claybon found Ralph Thomas for their 44-yard connection with 5:24 left in the first half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Moon was stripped on the return and Hunter Byler recovered the fumble at the Longview 15-yard line. On the next play, Claybon found Bryant — the nation's No. 10 receiver recruit according to online recruiting source Rivals.com — for a touchdown, their second touchdown connection of the game. Bryant had five receptions for 46 yards.
Longview lost three fumbles in the second quarter, including when a handoff from quarterback D'Marcus Miles was misplayed and Jamarcus McFarland recovered for Lufkin at the Longview 19-yard line with 4:29 left in the quarter. Thomas scored a touchdown on a 14-yard end around, giving Lufkin a 34-7 halftime lead.
Lufkin first scored on a 99-yard drive, aided by a Longview roughing-the-passer call, on a 37-yard touchdown pass from Claybon to Thomas with 2:44 left in the first quarter, giving Lufkin a 6-0 lead after the snap on the extra point was botched. Claybon had 173 passing yards in the first half and 295 in the game.
The first-half highlight of Longview's national broadcast came on the ensuing drive. Longview marched 80 yards in seven plays, capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Miles to Stevie Johnson on the first play of the second quarter.
Zach Decker's line-drive extra point gave Longview a brief 7-6 lead. Miles was 10-for-12 for 107 yards in the first half and finished with a career-high 207 passing yards.
Lufkin countered on its next drive with a 74-yard march, capped by a four-yard touchdown pass from Claybon to Bryant, giving Lufkin a 12-7 lead with 8:28 left in the first half.
Longview cornerback Sherman Rosborough had an interception on Lufkin's first drive, his second interception in as many weeks. Lufkin's Joseph Jackson forced a fumble late in the second quarter, recovered by Cam Davis.
Longview opens District 12-5A play with a road game at North Mesquite next Friday.