EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - It's a fiery rivalry that always seems to live up to the hype.
What better way to start district play than to place two of the biggest teams in East Texas, with the most historic rivalry on the field to face off.
It's the Nacogdoches-Lufkin game and not only is pride on the line, so is a district title, as well as a berth into the playoffs.
It's always a game about bragging rights as to who are the top dogs in East Texas, but it's the Dragons who have been able to hold last year's win over the heads of the Panthers. Nacogdoches beat Lufkin for the first time in 2 decades, 28-24 last year in non-district play.
While it's a new year, this game will have the same dogfight mentality.
"There's probably not a better way we could have started off the district being it's against Nacogdoches because we've been waiting to play them a long time," said Lufkin wide receiver Keke Coutee. "We're just ready to get it on tomorrow night."
"They've beaten us a lot in the past and last year, it was good to let them know we were still here," said Nacogdoches quarterback Hunter McClellan. "I think this year we ought to have a pretty good chance of winning. We just need to focus, work hard, and continue to fight. Hopefully we'll win tomorrow night."
However the Dragons will have to enter the Lufkin game without one of their best defensive players, Brandon Jones.
The safety with 33 FBS offers has a torn PCL and according to Head Coach Bobby Reyes, it's still up in the air whether or not he will be out the rest of the season.
While Jones is waiting to see an orthopedic surgeon in Houston next week, he has been doing rehab with school trainers. It's a matter of if he will need surgery or if Jones can rehab his way back onto the field. Surgery would mean no return this season, while rehab could mean a return this year for Jones.
The Dragons had the home field advantage last year and history could possibly repeat itself as this year's game will again be played at Dragon Stadium in Nacogdoches.
It's a sold out game that starts at 7:30 Friday night.