LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Lufkin Panthers have not made it past the first round of the football playoffs since 2012. The team this year has a different feel to it and is hopeful that stat will be erased Friday night when they host Rockwall-Heath in the Bi-District Round of the 6A playoffs.
Lufkin enters the game at 8-2. Their two losses came against Longview and state power The Woodlands. Heath enters the playoffs 6-4 with losses to West Mesquite, John Tyler, Longview and Horn. The Pack is on a four game winning streak while Heath has lost two straight.
"It has been a long time coming and this is our home field," senior safety Savon Fields said.
The team has been preparing as usual.
"You win and you get to go on and if you don't then you are done so there is no tomorrow," head coach Todd Quick said.
The Panthers will try to spread the ball out and use wide receiver Malik Jackson and running back Isaiah Phillips to create havoc for the Heath defense. Heath has a offensive strategy that can be compared to Longview.
"They will line up in there and get in that heavy package and pound it out," Quick said. "Three yards every play and we have got to be able to accept the challenge and get off the field."
At 8-2 the panthers could be the strongest team coming out of the bottom part of region II.
But don't tell that to Quick.
"I don't like sleepers and I don't like favorites," Quick said. "We are going to play at home in the first round and we are going to get the job done."
Lufkin's offense can score. They have outscored their opponents 375-221
"We bring it," sophomore wide receiver Ja'Lyn Polk said. "We know what we can do. Everyone just have to step up and do your part."
The key for a deep panther run could be the defense which gave up 120 fewer points this season and the Pack is also dominating the turnover game.
"We knew we had to change something because we didn't want to go 7-4 again and lose in the first round of the playoffs," Fields said.
"Through our regular season games we have got what we wanted and we are trying to get better each day," Quick said.
The Panthers also hope to have a home field advantage with the game being at Abe Martin.
"We want people in the seats," Quick said. "We want people on the track. We should have a full house."