LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Except for the week one opponent being the same as last year, the 2018 Lufkin Panther season will start very differently.
Heading into last season, the Panthers had not made it past the first round of the playoffs since 2012. They were coming off of a season where it seemed they could not stop anyone from scoring. Add a new quarterback to the mix and on paper it looked like the Pack would limp into the playoffs. But that is on paper. It is something head coach Todd Quick has learned to ignore. Ignoring it worked for Quick as his team did the exact opposite.
The team went 8-2 on the regular season and the defense made a big improvement. In the playoffs Lufkin would win close games against some of the best in the state. They made it all the way to the State Quarterfinals where they would fall to Longview. The success on the team all started in January of 2017 when the soon to be senior class made a commitment that their senior year would be different.
"That team started last year with no expectations except from those seniors," head coach Todd Quick said. "They had high expectations and drew everyone else up to them."
With the success from last year, there is a hype building around this team. In the summer, Dave Campbell Texas Football voted the Panthers into #1 preseason spot in 5A. On Monday, the Associated Press released their poll that had the Panthers in the #3 spot.
"This group is supposed to be good and a lot of times it is harder on kids when it is supposed to be that way," Quick said. "There is a lot of responsibility that comes with the expectations of the team. We got a lot of kids back on defense. That is where we will be strong at in the beginning. They have to carry it until everyone else takes care of their business."
On the defensive side of the ball in Lufkin, defensive end seniors Javasia Brunson has 10 Division I football offers, defensive end Breylon Garcia has eight Division I football offers, defensive tackle Carl Williams has 12 Division I football offers and corner back Damond McKelvey has one Division I football offer.. Junior free safety Bugg Thompson has five Division I football offers.
"I feel like we we are the best defenses in Texas," Thompson said. "We got a great d-line db's. We are very vocal. You are going to hear us on the field. We know what we can do. We just got to get after it."
Garcia has split his time between offense and defense since he was a freshman. Unless really needed, the Nevada commit will stay on the defensive side of the ball this year.
"I think it will be good for me and will be a great fit," Garcia said. "It just comes natural with me going after the quarterback with the ball."
Being a two-way player Garcia had a pretty good idea about what it might feel like to line up against the Pack's defense.
"I don't know how to explain it other than I know it is scary, Garcia said. "We are strong at all levels and we have underrated dudes that are coming up and that you will know by the end of the season."
The guys claim it is not hype around the team but the real deal. They are also not looking at the game from an individual aspect but from a unit.
"Coach Quick has taught us how to work together," Brunson said. "We have to play as an 11. We always just have to help out our brothers."