LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Fan excitement for the oldest football rivalry in East Texas is at an all time high after a year of bragging by the Nacogdoches Dragons.
Last year, in the third week of action, the Dragons surprised Lufkin 28-24. The win over the Panther was the first for Nacogdoches since 1992.
This year, the Pack returns to Dragon stadium looking for redemption, and the fans have purple fever.
"I would always say that Lufkin is always into it," said Dianne McClain, a long-time Panther fan. "It doesn't matter if Lufkin wins or loses, Lufkin fans are going to stand behind the Panthers."
In Nacogdoches, fans have been glowing all year and expect to see plenty of enthusiasm Friday night.
"You look back and everybody is standing and cheering," said former Dragon football player, Billy Huddleston. "You have your mom, dad, sister, girlfriend, aunt, and uncle chanting for you. It just really intensifies the game."
Fans hoping to grab a lat minute ticket to the game are out of luck. Nacogdoches sold their side of Dragon Stadium out last Wednesday, and Lufkin fans bought the last 300 tickets by 8:50 Thursday morning. Lufkin fans are not worried about the large crowds based on the atmosphere they enter every week at Abe Martin Stadium.
"Nacogdoches is excited about selling out their tickets, but what people also need to understand about Lufkin is every Friday night, our home side is always sold out," said Lufkin High School Principal Mark Smith.
Rumors started earlier in the week about Nacogdoches fans buying tickets that were allotted to Panther fans. Associate Superintendent Grey Burton said he does not know how many people might have bought tickets on the Panther side but does not think there will be an issue.
"Our fans usually behave," Burton said. "I don't see there being an issue, but we will be monitoring the stands tomorrow night. I think everyone will be respectful."
Burton said there will be no tickets sales at the game since it is a complete sale out.
Kick off for the district opener is 7:30 p.m. at Dragon Stadium on the Nacogdoches High School campus.