SHREVEPORT — John Curtis linebacker Nathaniel Evans broke through the Lufkin offensive line untouched with two minutes remaining, sacking quarterback Trey Cumbie and sealing the Patriots’ 32-25 victory over the Panthers in the Saturday afternoon matinee of the Landers Battle on the Border High School Football Showcase at Independence Stadium.
“We had a blitz package on, and I saw the opening,” Evans said. “Nobody touched me, and I knew I had to make a big play for my team.”
Lufkin (2-1), which has hopes of a Texas 5A state championship, was its own worst enemy most of the afternoon. The Panthers lost four fumbles, including three turned into scores by Curtis, along with an interception in the closing seconds when they had a chance to overcome Evans’ sack.
“The effort was there, you just can’t be that sloppy. You can’t give good teams that many chances and that many opportunities,” Lufkin coach Todd Quick said. “We have to learn from this and eliminate the mistakes. You can’t give them more touches than they get.”
Despite some mistakes of its own, Curtis had the firepower behind running backs Dontae Jones and Devon Benn it needed to go to 2-0 on the season.
“You can’t give up the long pass and we turned the ball over — but hat’s off to Lufkin,” Patriots coach J.T. Curtis said. “You can’t make mistakes when you play an opponent of this quality. You want to be able to go out there and compete, which we did today.”
Benn was the difference maker for the Patriots after he lulled the Panthers to sleep on a punt return with about six minutes remaining. Lufkin punted from its end zone and the ball bounced lazily at the 32. Benn appeared to be backing away to let it go out of bounds, when he suddenly picked it up and sped down the left sideline and scored the winning touchdown.
The Patriots looked like they would run away with the game early when they took advantage of a pair of Lufkin fumbles by turning them into quick scores. The Panthers ran two offensive plays and found themselves behind 13-0.
Curtis drove the ball 66 yards in 12 plays, all on the ground for a 7-0 lead on a Myles Washington 5-yard run. They went in front by two scores with two minutes to play in the first quarter on a 1-yard Washington plunge.
But then the tide turned. A Lufkin punt was mishandled by the Curtis returner and Jadarius Carroll fell on it. Seven plays later, Sowell redeemed one of his fumbles with a 7-yard touchdown to get his team within 13-7 early in the second quarter. Washington contributed to his third score of the half by hitting Jacob Bordelon with his only pass of the half and it went for a 65-yard TD.
Lufkin then picked up its offensive display with Cumbie hitting Terry Mark for 14- and 52-yard touchdowns in the final three minutes of the first half. The teams entered the locker room tied 19-19 as the kickers missed four PATs.