The district season is here and it’s kicking off with one of the most deep-seeded rivalries in East Texas.
Lufkin will be hosting Nacogdoches on Friday for the district opener.
This heated rivalry has evolved in recent years. While the Panthers used to blow past the Dragons with ease, Nacogdoches has proven they can hold their own lately and are seeking a third consecutive win in this series.
In 2013, Nacogdoches pulled away from Lufkin 28-24. The following year, Nacogdoches beat Lufkin 38-35.
“It's not the same Nacogdoches. They're playing with more attitude, but this year we're really going to bring that attitude. This is a win we got to have,” said Lufkin defensive end Bronson Massie.
“This game offers a lot of bragging rights,” said quarterback Kordell Rodgers. “They beat us two years in a row and we just can't let them beat us again.”
Nacogdoches understands the history altering stakes that are on the line in this game. Last year when the Dragons won back-to-back years, it was the first time it had been done since 1930.
If Nacogdoches can pull off a win for a third consecutive year, it’d be a first in the 98 years these two have faced off.
"It's a really big deal and when we play Lufkin it's a really big rivalry. It's been for a long time now and everybody comes out to support,” said Nacogdoches safety Brandon Jones.
"The only pressure there is what you put on yourself," said Nacogdoches head coach Bobby Reyes.
According to Lufkin Panther Sports, Nacogdoches almost had it's longest winning streak starting back in 1915.
The Dragons beat the Pack in 1915, 1916, they didn’t play each other in 1917 or 1918, but then Nacogdoches won the following two years after that in 1919 and 1920.
"We're going to go out there and go to war. Hopefully we’ll come out with a win," said Massie.
"The seniors, we got to let them go out with a win. They've lost to Nacogdoches the past two years in a row and we just can't let that happen again,” said Rodgers.
Pride aside, this game is about getting a winning start to district. Both teams enter 1-2, and they're both looking at district as a new season to start 1-0.
"You add a lot of things to it and you add Nacogdoches into it, but you always want to get off on a fast start in district," said Lufkin head coach Todd Quick.
"Starting off with Lufkin will be a really good test to see where we are offensively and defensively. It will really set the tone being such a big game and if we pull off the win, I think that will really set the tone for the rest of the season," said Jones.
Setting that district tone won't be easy by any means for Nacogdoches, who will have to endure Lufkin's home crowd on not only their district opener, but also their home opener this season.
"It’s the first time we’ve been home, it's the district game, it's the opener, it's Nacogdoches, I mean if the kid can't get up to play this game he's got no pulse,” said Quick. “We're really excited about being home, our fans are excited and we expect a full house.”
On top of that, no Dragon on this year's team has ever played at Lufkin.
"We're for sure planning on facing some adversity being over there in Lufkin. We're going to have overcome adversity, play all as one, keep our heads on strong and hopefully pull of the win,” said Jones.
This game will be kicking off at Abe Martin Stadium starting at 7:30.
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