Week 6 took me to the easternmost point of my When In Texas journey: the Deep East Texas town of Lufkin and its Lufkin High School Panthers.
Often cited as one of the best high school football atmospheres in the state, Lufkin gathers over ten thousand fans in Abe Martin Stadium during Panthers' games, including this Friday's homecoming contest against Whitehouse, in which Lufkin survived a furious late rally by the Wildcats and held on by a score of 52-48.
Abe Martin Stadium is named after the head coach who guided Lufkin to four district championships and almost a decade of dominance over East Texas football during the 1930s and '40s, kickstarting Lufkin's continued passion over its football teams. The town produced its first state championship team in 1964, out of the segregated African-American school Dunbar High School, which would go on to win two more state titles before integration finally came to Lufkin High School in 1970. Since then, the Pack's most successful period came under the guidance of head coach John Outlaw, who compiled over 160 wins in 17 years, as well as three state semifinal appearances and a state championship victory in 2001 before untimely passing away due to a heart attack in 2011. The Panthers have been playing their home games in John Outlaw Memorial Field at Abe Martin Stadium since then.
Lufkin has produced several National Football League players, including current Dallas Cowboys star wide-receiver Dez Bryant, but none has been as successful as Dunbar alumnus Ken Houston, who was inducted to the NFL's Hall of Fame in 1986 after a 13 year career with the Houston Oilers and Washington.