LUFKIN, Texas (KTRE) - The Lufkin Panthers returned to practice field for the first time this fall with one goal: to win a state championship.
Last season the team fell short, losing to Frisco Lone Star in the area round of the playoffs. Players sat at home in December and watched other teams hoist up Texas State Championship trophies. Other teams like rival Longview in 6-A Division II.
“It is great to be out here and get out of the summer workout programs,” said Todd Quick, Lufkin head coach . “We are out here to get better each day and we have one goal. There is only one goal. Everyone has that goal.”
The Panthers took the field with intensity. They battled through the heat index of 105 degrees.
“The heat doesn’t bother me at all," wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk said. "I love being in heat. It shouldn’t bother you if you love what you do.”
Coach Quick answered the question about the heat with a smile on his face; it was if he got enjoyment out of the triple-digit numbers on a thermometer.
“Oh we got some wind today,” Quick said. “It is not too bad.”
If the heat did not bother the Panthers players on day one of fall camp, then the memory of losing to Lone Star did. The Panthers entered the 2018 season as the preseason favorite by many experts and media members to be playing for a state title in December.
“We have a lot to prove,” Jerrin Thompson said. “We have a lot to come back on and finish because we didn’t do our job last year."
The Panthers will be led under center this year by junior Jordan Moore, who saw success as a sophomore when he came in for an injured Kewone Thomas to start the year. Moore had a successful spring workout session and helped the Panthers qualify for the state 7-on-7 tournament.
“I am excited and confident,” Thomas said. “I feel like we came together as a team.”
Lufkin won the 8 5-A Division I District title during the 2017-18.
It looks to be another tight race with Magnolia West and College Station having teams that could upset Lufkin. Change in the coaching ranks also make it a hard district to figure out.
“It is a great district,” Quick said. “It is a strong district. There are four new coaches in the district. It really adds to it.”
Lufkin opens the season Aug. 30 at home against rivals Longview Lobos.