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2023 Lufkin Panther BOYS and GIRLS Soccer

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Jacksonville’s Tomato Bowl will have a Lufkin feel after the Panthers and Lady Pack set their playoff games earlier this week.

The teams will play a doubleheader with the Lady Pack taking on Pine Tree at 5:30 before the Panthers face Tyler at 7:30 on Thursday night.

Both teams enter the playoffs as district runners-up after successful regular seasons.

On the girls side, the Lady Panthers needed a win against Nacogdoches in order to earn the second seed. They delivered by scoring three late goals in a 3-0 win over the Lady Dragons in Lufkin Tuesday night.

Rachel Bonnin added to her Lufkin records by finding the back of the net twice. She now has 31 goals on the season and 76 career scores. Her 16 goals in district helped the Lady Panthers return back to the playoffs.

While Bonnin, a senior, and freshman Olivia Loyola have spearheaded the offense, the Lady Pack defense has told much of the story this season.

With Maury Spore and Montreat signee Kylie Ridings leading the way in the back, Lufkin has been rock solid since a slow start to the season.

The Lady Panthers allowed 21 goals in the first six games of the season as they got off to a 1-4-1 start. Since then, the Lady Panthers have allowed 15 goals in the last 14 games.

Seven of those came in two losses to district champion Kingwood Park. Three more came in the only other district loss, a 3-2 setback to New Caney Porter.

Lufkin has allowed three goals in the other 12 games in that span.

Thursday’s opponent is no stranger to the Lady Panthers. The teams met in the Pine Tree tournament earlier this season. Bonnin scored two goals to give Lufkin a 2-0 lead before Pine Tree battled back to force a 2-2 draw.

The teams also played in last year’s playoffs when Lufkin led 2-1 in the second half before Pine Tree forced overtime and eventually won 4-2 in extra time.

On the boys side, the Panthers are ready to make some postseason noise of their own.

Lufkin won the first four games of district and eventually locked up 16-5A’s second seed even before the regular-season finale against district champion Nacogdoches.

Playing in front of the biggest home crowd of the season, Lufkin put up a fight against the Dragons before dropping a 2-1 decision.

Daniel Rivera scored late in the first half to tie the game, but Nacogdoches’ score on a long free kick that sent the Dragons to a win.

The Panthers are now prepared to open the postseason against former district rival Tyler, the third seed in 15-5A.

The Lions held their own in a competitive district. Longview and Tyler finished with 11-3 district marks. Tyler is the third seed thanks to needing overtime to beat Longview 2-1. The Lobos won the other meeting 2-1.

Lufkin and Tyler shared a district last season when they split their regular-season matchups. The Panthers beat Tyler 1-0 at home before dropping a 2-1 decision on the road.

Josh Havard’s email address is josh.havard@lufkindailynews.com.

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