Wild, Wild West: Wolves move into regional finals with with 55-52 win over Lufkin
WACO -- Plano West's latest playoff victory wasn't easy.
Making program history never is.
In its first appearance in the regional semifinals, West (9-4) scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:12 remaining and then sweated out a potentially game-tying field goal at the buzzer to defeat Lufkin (9-4) Saturday afternoon from Waco ISD Stadium and move into the regional finals.
"This is just elation," said Auston Anderson, West junior running back. "Nothing can beat this feeling right now."
Before getting to elation, there was plenty of time for trepidation.
In a game that featured more than 1,200 yards of offense and a 28-point comeback, it only stands to reason that Saturday's regional semifinals would come down to the final second.
West took a 55-52 lead with 1:12 remaining on sophomore running back Soso Jamabo's third touchdown, but that left plenty of time for a Lufkin team that had already scored 28 second-half points.
A lengthy return by Jabryce Taylor, who also had nine catches for 236 yards and three touchdowns, set Lufkin up at their own 42-yard line. A 42-yard throw by quarterback Tyler Stubblefield, who completed 21-of-38 passes for 445 yards and four touchdowns to go along with 57 yards and two scores on the ground, then moved the Panthers into the red zone before curious back-to-back running plays forced a 29-yard field goal attempt with three seconds on the clock.
"The No. 1 thing I did at that moment was start to pray," Anderson said.
"It's really tough," added Jake Wodka, West senior linebacker, "because you're not sure if you're going to win, if you're going to overtime or if you're season is about to end."
It was the first of those choices as Luis Garcia missed the kick following a high snap.
"I saw the high snap and it just seemed like everything was out of rhythm on the kick," said Travis Korry, West senior quarterback. "And when he missed it was just ... amazing."
The kick sailed wide right and West students stormed the field as Wodka broke down and went to hug his dad.
"At this point," he said, "I feel like it's destiny."
Prior to Lufkin's final drive, the pressure was on West as a 5-yard touchdown run by Kendrick Mapp, who had 77 yards on 15 carries, gave the Panthers their first lead of the game at 52-48 with 3:28 remaining.
That score capped 28 straight points by Lufkin.
"Lufkin is a good team and we knew that," Anderson said. "They were in the playoffs for a reason."
"I think that speaks a lot to the character of that Lufkin team," Korry added. "But we still had a chance; this was a business trip for us and we knew we had to go down and score."
West did score on an 8-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown by Jamabo in which Lufkin appeared to let him score to get the ball back.
Jamabo didn't need any help for much of the game, specifically in the first half.
Jamabo, 23 carries for 164 yards and three touchdowns, and Anderson, 20 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns, ran roughshod over Lufkin in the first two quarters. A touchdown from each gave West a 14-0 lead with 6:44 left in the first and that advantage surged to 38-17 with 3:40 to go in the half following another touchdown from Jamabo and Anderson as well as a 2-yard score by Korry.
"We were unstoppable in the first half," Korry said.
West's quarterback ran for two touchdowns in addition to completing 16-of-25 passes for 254 yards. Senior Austin Copeland was Korry's primary target with six catches for 70 yards while seniors Zac Gideo and Connor Doyle each pulled in three receptions.
After trading a field goal for a touchdown, West held a 41-24 advantage at the break.
That lead increased to 48-24 less than three minutes into the third when Korry ran for a 2-yard touchdown following an interception by West senior Collin Eberle. That was the third pick of the game for the Wolves with seniors Logan Caillouet and Davis Roeschke making them in the first half.
Stubblefield would have little difficulty after the opening drive in the second half.
Facing a 48-24 deficit, Lufkin scored touchdowns on four of its next five drives with Stubblefield passing for two scores (including a 35-yard toss to Key'vantanie Coutee, who had eight catches for 105 yards) and running for another prior to Mapp's touchdown that put the Panthers in front, 52-48.
That lead lasted just 136 seconds as West went back in front at 55-52.
"What did I tell you," said Stephan Randall, West senior lineman, in reference to a statement made after last week's victory over South Garland, "go all four quarters, best man wins."
That was West, 55-52, in a result that left many Wolves at a loss.
"I don't know how to describe what I just saw," Korry said, "because I'm not even sure what I just saw."
"It was ... unfeasible," Anderson added, to which Copeland responded, "I don't think that's a word."
"Yes it is," Anderson said.
West's unfeasible run continues at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Region II Finals against Austin Westlake (9-4) back at Waco ISD Stadium.