As usual, it was a long drive up to Lufkin for the Oak Ridge War Eagle football team, cheerleaders, band, Liberty Belles, color guard, and everyone else that made the trip with just a smidgen of optimism to see their football team take on the always-mighty Lufkin Panthers. And once again, it was an even longer drive home, as Oak Ridge fell to Lufkin 42-10.
Don’t be fooled by Lufkin’s 4-5 season record. The Panthers clinched their 16th consecutive playoff spot by climbing to 3-2 in conference, overwhelming an overmatched War Eagle secondary with five touchdown passes, three of which were for more than 50 yards. Those types of plays can quickly deflate a team, and although Oak Ridge fought hard throughout the game, they just could not match up with a Panther team playing in front of a rabid home crowd.
Remember, the five Lufkin Panther home football games are probably the five biggest events of the year in Lufkin. The sixth is probably an intra-team scrimmage. These people live for Friday Night Lights. The local businesses provide tremendous support to the team, and generations of Lufkin football fans show up to see the hometown boys take on whoever is unlucky enough that year to make the long bus trip to East Texas. You have to bring your A-game to have a chance against Lufkin, and the War Eagles did not do that this year.
The Oak Ridge offense could manage only 48 rushing yards against the Panthers. Did the offensive line not open up enough holes? Did the running backs not hit them? Or was the Lufkin defensive line just way too good in this game? The coaches will see that when they look at the game tapes.
Right now, it’s time to put this one behind us, and look forward to the annual match-up with The Woodlands.
WORTHY OF NOTE:
PATRICK COALE: If you’ll look back to the A&M Consol game, you’ll remember Coale having a tough night in the punting department. Well, we reported that Coale would get right back up on that horse and win the mental game next time out. Last night, if you were to give one Oak Ridge player the game ball, it would have been Coale.
SCHEDULE: Oak Ridge started out the season 7-0 and we all had dreams that Oak Ridge would just keep on rolling even against the three toughest opponents in the district. As soon as the team lost last week, the second guessers started appearing, en masse. People were wondering why Coach Rush would schedule such weak opponents to start out the season because it would come back to haunt them later against The Big 3.
First of all, Oak Ridge needed those eight positive weeks (one bye week). The program had been through some tough years and was in desperate need of a boost. We saw a glimpse of how good the War Eagles can be in the years to come.
Second, it isn’t Coach Rush’s schedule. The pre-district schedule with several Home and Home agreements was etched in stone before Rush even entertained thoughts of coming to Oak Ridge.
Next season, you’ll see some tougher pre-district opponents. However, this season’s schedule brought us Oak Ridge fans closer together and the team hasn’t had better support in the 5A era.
CLAYTON GRETT: Clayton took one to the squash again. He’s such a great person and the last thing from my mind right now is wondering when he can play again. Get well, CG!
CHRIS GRETT: Former War Eagle QB and big brother to Clayton, Chris played the whole second half for Sam at safety in The Battle of the Piney Woods. He switched to safety this year because he felt it would be the only way he’d get substantial playing time. To all appearances, the older Grett is completely legit and should not ever come out of a game for SHSU.
BRADEN LETNEY: Letney suffered an ankle injury which could sideline him for the rest of the season. If that becomes true, the kid had one heck of a season. The sky is the limit for a player with Letney’s talent. To think he is just a sophomore is ridiculous.
JACOB NORTON: Norton played admirably and when he had time in the pocket, his throws were on the money. If he is made to scramble, his accuracy is off. That’s not a slight at all. Not many high school QB’s can throw accurately when they are running for their lives all night long.
O-LINE: Not every player or unit is going to play lights out for every minute of every game in a season. Even the best players have bad games. This game was their one bad game. They’ll be back!
WHEELS: Although the team went hard all game long, towards the end of the third quarter you could see the wheels coming off of Oak Ridge’s wagon. The team was deflated for a variety of reasons. Not the least of which was because Lufkin is damn good. You watch, they’ll go 2-3 deep in the playoffs. They are playing their best now and Oak Ridge ran into them at the wrong time. There are other reasons but see the next couple of paragraphs.
OFFICIALS: Did we not tell you last week that Oak Ridge can not expect ANY calls? Some fans came up to me last night and said they almost left because they were almost getting sick watching how one sided the officiating can be. Now, this is not an Oak Ridge excuse because Lufkin was better on Friday night. But, in regards to the team looking deflated late in the game, lopsided officiating can take part of the blame. I’ve been going to games in Lufkin for years and I am telling you it is a major joke. A team that is that good should never have the benefit of lopsided officiating. Have they won a state championship lately? No! Why? Because when they go out in the real world when it is time to play for the hardware, the team has not done well.
POOR SPORTSMANSHIP: Look that up in the dictionary and the word LUFKIN is right there. The coaches do not have a handle on the players in that department. Down the road in life, wins and losses in high school will mean squat. Whether you are a decent person with good values will be king. Coaches can be a major factor in a young athlete’s future. The Lufkin coaches should put more emphasis on the class aspect.
THE WOODLANDS: It doesn’t get any easier so the Oak Ridge coaches will have to start getting real creative because The W has beaten Consol and Lufkin handily. What we know about the Oak Ridge players and coaches is that they will be going 100% no matter what. You gotta love the pride they show every second they play.
The future looks bright for Oak Ridge football and every other sport. We are catching War Eagle athletics on the upswing so cherish what we have. We’ll be up for a long time!
See you at Woodforest Friday night!!
Comments to Doug Sarant at email@example.com
If you weren’t able to make the long trip to Friday night’s game, here are some photos that capture the festivities. These are courtesy of the always-reliable Jim Eastin.