An upset for the books

Tigers break through first round, defeat Lufkin in bi-district


Photo by Margaret Debenport

Texas High football players celebrate their victory over the Lufkin Panthers on Friday,. Nov. 15th. The Tigers won with a score of 41-35 in double overtime.

Story by Caden Rainwater and Anna Grace Jones

They were simply a team with a three-game losing streak. A team looking for a chance, desperately clinging to the hope of qualifying for playoffs. However, on Friday, Oct. 18th, the players walked off the field with a different look. They walked off the field with smiles on their faces, helmets raised over their heads and spirits higher than the sky. Every game since that Friday night has been in the same manner, including their first playoff game in the past two seasons. 

The outcome of the bi-district playoff game between the Lufkin Panthers and the Texas High Tigers was unexpected to most critics and fans. The knowledge that Texas High, the 270th ranked team in Texas, was facing the 34th ranked team in the state was the root of most doubt, but the Tigers showed no sign of backing down as they went on to defeat the Panthers 41-35 in double overtime, clinching a spot in the area round of playoffs. 

You didn’t quit, when the odds were stacked against you, you did not quit. We won because you didn’t let up, and you made them quit.”

— head coach Gerry Stanford

The task at hand was to win their final three district games for a legitimate shot at qualifying for the playoffs, and that is precisely what they did, in what many would deem an impressive fashion. They overcame the odds and won by large enough margins to claim the fourth spot in district and an opportunity to play in the bi-district round of playoffs.

“We didn’t start off very well, but we started to give our best effort. We fought hard and it paid off for the boys,” Stanford said. “We built confidence and progressively gave ourselves the shot we needed.”

On Friday, Nov. 8th, the Tigers faced the West Mesquite Wranglers. A triumph took place on the field that looked nearly identical to Friday night in Lufkin. It was a celebration of victory and a reward for long hours and numerous sacrifices, but most importantly, it was a realization that their season was not over. Questions of who they would play next and how great a challenge they posed were distant from the players’ minds because the on-field excitement was simply a time to say, “We did it!” 

“We came out, did our thing and did our job; we proved the doubters wrong,” senior wide receiver Kobe Webster said. “For now, I’m just happy I have another game to play with the boys.”

In Abe Martin Stadium in Lufkin, Texas, the Tigers, and fans alike, reveled in their win. This specific celebration carried a new emotion, a sense of pure joy and pride as Texas High had just upset the 7th ranked team in Texas 5A football. This victory carried so much weight because the Tigers had been told that, statistically, there had little chance of leaving Lufkin with a win under their belt. However, they refuted this skepticism entirely; they persevered and triumphed over the Panthers in a game that kept fans on their toes.

“To sum up everything up to the game against Lufkin, I would say tremendous effort, fight and care,” Stanford said. “Care for our school, care for our community, care for each other, and the most effort among any high school football team I’ve seen in a long time.”

The Tigers now move on to the area round of UIL football state playoffs and are scheduled to play Frisco Independence High School, the 7th ranked team in the state. The game will be Friday night at 7:00 pm at Tiger Stadium.