LUFKIN — John Tyler was hoping to move forward after the graduation of a bevy of talented playmakers on offense.
Instead, the Lions went backward more often than not, suffering 20 negative runs as the offensive line was overrun in a 52-28 loss to Lufkin on Friday night at John Outlaw Field at Abe Martin Stadium.
JT junior quarterback Geovari McCollister was taken down behind the line of scrimmage 15 times, and bad snaps gave Lufkin two safeties and a few easy sacks on the evening.
The Lions (0-1) utilized the big play to take an early 21-7 lead in the first quarter, but the Panthers (1-0) scored 45 unanswered to pull away for a comfortable win.
The final numbers proved deceiving: Lufkin racked up 412 total yards while JT finished with 378 yards of offense. However, after a few big plays early, the Lions were unable to run the ball and the Panthers took control.
Lufkin quarterback Trey Cumbie completed all 11 of his 22 passes in the first half, throwing for 196 yards and three touchdowns and an interception (by Isaac Warren), adding 66 yards and a score on the ground.
Panthers receiver Jamal Jeffery, a Texas A&M commit, had two grabs for 91 yards, including a 63-yard score while Texas receiver commit Keke Coutee totaled 78 yards and a touchdown. Running back Steven Sowell ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
While stifled running the ball — except for one long run — the Lions found success through the air. McCollister completed 17 of 28 passes for 353 yards, including three to running back Reggie Gipson for 147 yards. He threw a 46-yard strike to Nick Cain for the game's final touchdown, though the game had long been out of reach.
JT senior Jeremy Wilson took a handoff 86 yards for a score, but the rest of the Lions combined for negative 61 yards rushing.
Lufkin's defense forced McCollister into one interception, which Michael Farley returned 64 yards early in the second quarter.
The Lions, who went 13-2 last year, have eight days to regroup before a Saturday night clash with Lancaster in Tyler. The Panthers will also be in Tyler for their next game when they face Robert E. Lee.
John Tyler struck in the first quarter with the big play to take a 21-7 lead eight minutes into the game.
Reggie Gipson got the Lions off to a flying start when he took a short screen pass 77 yards to the house on JT's first drive. The touchdown, McCollister's first as a varsity quarterback, came on third-and-30 with the Lions staring down a three-and-out.
After the Panthers responded with a couple of big plays from Jeffery and Coutee, JT showed off more speed. Jeremy Wilson took a handoff, cut upfield and burst away from the pack for his 86-yard score.
On the ensuing kickoff, JT senior Brycton Crawford jumped on a muffed catch, setting up a short drive capped by Gipson on a 3-yard run.
Lufkin then took over and finished the half strong, scoring 21 unanswered heading into the break. The Panthers' comeback began with Jeffery, who made a quick juke to escape outside for his 63-yard touchdown just before the end of the first quarter.
After Farley's interception, Cumbie found Terry Mark for an 11-yard strike to knot the game at 21. Lufkin then grabbed its first lead of the night on Sowell's 2-yard run on a second-straight direct snap.
The Lions' woes continued to start the second half when they started the first drive on their own 6 after a long kickoff was misplayed. A mishandled snap resulted in a safety for the Panthers on the first play of the half. Two plays later, Sowell burst up the middle for a 45-yard scoring run.
Lufkin claimed its second safety on the following drive when the Lions attempted to punt on fourth-and-30 from their own 18. The snap flew past punter Luis Duran, who covered it up in the end zone for two more Lufkin points.
Cumbie then scored his first rushing TD of the night to put Lufkin ahead 46-21. Timmy Martinez tacked on two field goals, one from 43 yards, to push Lufkin over the half-century mark.
Lufkin 52, John Tyler 28
John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium
John Tyler 21 0 0 7 — 28
Lufkin 14 14 18 6 — 52
JT—Reggie Gipson 77 pass from Geovari McCollister (Jose Perez kick), 9:16.
LUF—Keke Coutee 24 pass from Trey Cumbie (Timmy Martinez kick), 7:56.
JT—Jeremy Wilson 86 run (Perez kick), 4:11.
JT—Gipson 3 run (Perez kick), 1:17.
LUF—Jamal Jeffery 63 pass from Cumbie (Martinez kick), 0:26.
LUF—Terry Mark 11 pass from Cumbie (Martinez kick), 8:05.
LUF—Steven Sowell 2 run (Martinez kick), 4:10.
LUF—Sowell 45 run (Martinez kick), 11:00.
LUF—Cumbie 11 run (Martinez kick), 5:56.
LUF—Martinez 43 FG, 10:04.
LUF—Martinez 26 FG, 5:34.
JT—Nick Cain 46 pass from McCollister (Perez kick), 2:35.
First Downs 17 19
Rushes-Yards 34-25 32-216
Passing Yards 353 196
Comp.-Att.-Int. 17-28-1 11-22-1
Punts-Avg. 4-28.8 3-43.0
Fumbles-Lost 3-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 10-83 7-60
RUSHING—John Tyler, Jeremy Wilson 1-86, Nick Cain 1-8, Reggie Gipson 7-(-8), Geovari McCollister 23-(-31), Team 2-(-37). Lufkin, Steven Sowell 18-94, Trey Cumbie 5-66, Keke Coutee 2-39, Yoram McDowell 3-10, Josh Tolbert 4-7.
PASSING—John Tyler, McCollister 17-28-1—353. Lufkin, Cumbie 11-22-1—196.
RECEIVING—John Tyler, Cain 5-72, Duntavion Gross 4-56, Gipson 3-147, Wilson 3-66, Rodney Bendy 2-12. Lufkin, Coutee 3-39, Jamal Jeffery 2-91, Demarrea Houston 2-36, Terry Mark 2-19, Sowell 1-6, Kenny Gilbert 1-5.