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ET Football: Lufkin to test young Longview Lobos in opener

By Hayden Henry
Aug. 25, 2016 at 11:19 p.m.

With tonight's season opener barreling at them, the heat was on – and hung in the air thick as the August-in-Texas temperatures returned – for the Lobos' practice on Wednesday at Lobo Stadium.

One of the final tune-ups, a session full of final teaching and corrections, Kendall Starling pulled aside a young teammate after a miscue, showed him a few things and patted him on the head.

He'd been there before.

"When I was a sophomore, I had people like Broderick (Washington) – a lot of guys – that I was talking to about getting better," the three-year varsity offensive lineman said. "They talked to be about a lot of things, things that I was messing up or things I needed to do differently. We came together like a family.

"That's what I'm trying to do with guys like (sophomore offensive lineman) Gavin (Roberts). Yeah, you're going to mess up but, like I told him, don't focus on what you messed up on, focus on what you did right and how you canlearn from every mistake."

Tonight marks three years since Starling made his Lobo debut, a night, liketonight, that a large portion will cut their varsity teeth inside the not-so-friendly confines of Lufkin's Abe Martin Stadium. That night didn't go well for the Lobos as the Panthers took a 44-14 win.

"It put a little chip on my shoulder," Starling recalled. "It made me want to do better for my team, I remember that."

Running back D'Crayvan Polk also made his debut that night.

"I'll admit, I had a few nerves," Polk said. "When they called my name on kickoff return, man, it was something. I screwed up but I learned quickly.

"You're thrown in there and it's fast-paced and physical but all you have to do is what your coaches tell you to do in practice."

Traveion Webster made his varsity debut a week later in 2014 against another rival in John Tyler. Again, he said he had tutelage from older Lobos as he began his varsity career, the first season on offense and this past season on defense.

"Now, I've got to do the same," the now-safety, who picked up an offer from Missouri State, his fourth overall, on Thursday said. "I've got to help the younger guys come along and we've got to come together and go."

Tonight, the trial by fire is on for a large portion of the Lobos, who willstart several sophomores and juniors on both sides of the ball.

"We have a lot of inexperience on our football team but you see that change every day," Longview head coach John King said. "We're certainly not where we want to be and we have some growing to do to reach our goals.

"This is going to be a test for our team and something that we need."

Meeting for the 79th time, there are no real secrets between Longview and Lufkin. Two things, however, remain a constant.

"Meeting so many times, especially over the past decade, we've gone toe-to-toe many times in hard-fought ballgames and it's a battle, which is an understatement, every time," King said. "They know what to expect with the intensity and effort that we're fixing to get out of Lufkin.

"Or, at least, they better know."

After taking that lump in his first varsity game, Starling has since been apart of come classics against Lufkin such as erasing a 28-point playoff deficit later in 2014, a one-point blocked point-after attempt in 2015's season opener, followed by another first-round playoff win later in the season.

"Lufkin is a great team and all four games that I've been apart of have been battles, that's just the way it is," he said. "I feel like if we go out there and do what we need to do, play our game, do our jobs and the little things, it's going to set up another great game."

Polk added: "It's going to be a dogfight – all four quarters – that's all you can say."

And a great test in a hostile environment.

"It's a heck of a place to grow up," King said. "And our test is coming."

Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Abe Martin Stadium in Lufkin.

(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h)



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