When the Lufkin Panthers took the field for the first time Monday, head coach Todd Quick felt they already had a head start on the season. With seven offensive starters returning, it's easy to feel that way.
The core group is able to pick up where they left off from last year, especially with the return of quarterback Kordell Rodgers. It also doesn’t hurt to have Dhailon Phillips and Malik Jackson out wide, with Kahlil Brown coming through the offensive line.
“We definitely have an older team. We expect big things out of them,” said Quick. “They had a great offseason and we're in better shape than we've ever been coming out of summer. I’m real proud of what they did and the participation that we had.”
The big expectations for the Rodgers are far greater than just within the team, as Rodgers was tabbed as the District Preseason Offensive MVP.
Lufkin is now competing as a 6A this year, but they don't feel going up a classification will offset the advantage of their veteran offensive unit.
“We look at the other teams and feel like we're the top dogs. We have a lot of returners coming back and we feel like the other teams don't have that,” said Rodgers. “That's an advantage for us because we know each other, know how each other plays and we're just ready to get the season started.”
“We don't care what's in front of us. We're going to go out there and compete every game whether it's 6A or 5A,” said Phillips. “We feel very confident in our team, confident in our coaches, and very confident in ourselves. We feel like we're going to compete every game no matter what.”
Lufkin has been picked to finish second in their district, behind The Woodlands. They also were ranked in the Top 40 in the state. The Panthers were slotted at 37.
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