Vandals celebrate Homecoming by outlasting Palestine, 49-28

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In a contest that saw both teams struggle with penalties, the Van Vandals showed more firepower and determination in the end as they broke a 28-28 deadlock with three unanswered second half touchdown drives to post a hard fought 49-28 Homecoming victory over the Palestine Wildcats Friday night to remain undefeated.

Coach Jared Moffatt’s Vandals concluded their non-district schedule at 4-0 as they now prepare to open District 8-4A, Division I competition against the Crandall Pirates Friday in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Crandall.

During pre-game ceremonies at Van’s Memorial Stadium prior to kick off between Van and Palestine, Taylor Tallant was named as the 2017 Van High School Homecoming Queen and Jake Kellam was selected as the 2017 VHS Homecoming King.

The matchup featuring the Vandals and the Wildcats saw both teams combine for 41 first downs and 791 yards of total offense.

While Van was penalized seven times for 55 yards, the Wildcats committed double the amount of penalties with 14 resulting in 80 penalty yards. Palestine committed 10 pre-snap infractions in the game.

Van quarterback Garrett Moseley completed 14 out of 27 passes for 286 yards and two TD’s as the Vandals had two receivers go over the 100-yard mark as Gus Brewer caught seven passes for 128 yards and one TD while Bray Doring finished with four receptions for 115 yards and one TD.

Palestine received the opening kickoff and wasted little time in taking an early lead as they moved 75 yards in eight plays.

Wildcat running back Jeremiah Davis (28 carries, 151 yards, two TD’s) ended the initial march with a 44-yard TD run. Edgar Ayala added the extra point as the Wildcats took a 7-0 lead with 9:29 remaining in the first quarter. Davis also had a 10-yard run in the opening scoring drive.

Following three downs and punt by the Vandals in their first offensive series, the Wildcats threatened to add to their lead as they moved as deep as the Vandal 16 in five plays including a 27-yard pass completion from quarterback Tyler Gray to H-back T. J. Dever.

Facing fourth down and 11, the Wildcats sent in Ayala to attempt a 33-yard field goal but the kick missed wide to the left leaving the score at 7-0 in favor of Palestine.

The Vandals moved from their own 20 to the Wildcat 34 in five plays including a 38-yard pass completion from Moseley to Brewer but the drive stalled as a bad shotgun snap that sailed over the head of Moseley was recovered by center Caleb York after a 13-yard loss resulting in a punt.

After an exchange of punts, the Vandals put together their first scoring drive of the game as they advanced 63 yards in six plays.

The Moseley-to-Brewer connection worked again, this time on a 6-yard TD pass play. Calen McKinney added the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:40 to play in the second quarter.

Key plays in the scoring drive for Van included a 34-yard run by Moseley and a personal foul/targeting penalty against Palestine defensive back Quintin Cook resulting in Cook’s ejection from the game.

Following a Palestine punt, the Vandals took the lead on a well-executed screen pass from Moseley to Doring resulting in an 86-yard TD pass play. McKinney added the extra point to give Van its first lead at 14-7 with 4:51 remaining before halftime.

Palestine rallied by using most of the remaining first half clock to move 69 yards in 12 plays to tie the game once again.

Gray, racing against the clock, ran two yards for a TD to end the long scoring drive. Ayala added the extra point as the game was deadlocked at 14-14 with seven seconds remaining before intermission.

Pass completions from Gray covering 24 yards to wide receiver Caleb Lafontaine and WR Kameron Hamilton for 19 yards were key plays in the Palestine scoring drive as both teams headed to the locker room with the contest in a tie.

Both teams combined for six TD drives in the third quarter alone as the Vandals received the third quarter kickoff and proceeded to break the deadlock with a 53-yard drive in six plays.

Reserve RB Tristan Gentry ended the march with a 6-yard TD run. McKinney added the extra point for a 21-14 Vandal advantage with 10:18 to play in the third quarter.

A 25-yard pass completion from Moseley to receiver Ethan Robinson and an 11-yard run by reserve RB Ridge Preston were key plays in the tie-breaking scoring drive for the Vandals.

Backed up in its own end of the field, the Wildcats faced fourth down and 14 at its own 11-yard line when Gray, set up in punt formation, fielded a low snap from center and decided to pass the ball downfield which fell incomplete resulting in the Vandals taking over in excellent field position at the Palestine 11.

Three plays later, reserve RB Marcus Orozco ended the short drive with a 1-yard TD run. McKinney added the extra point giving the Vandals a seemingly comfortable 28-14 advantage with 8:02 remaining in the third quarter.

Palestine showed no signs of giving up as a 45-yard return of the ensuing kickoff by Davis gave the Wildcats good field position at the Van 48.

On third down and 13, a bizarre change in momentum took place as a pass over the middle by Gray was deflected off the hands of Vandal defensive back Cason Bailey and into the grasp of Palestine WR Robert Gipson who raced 55 yards for a Wildcat TD. Ayala added the extra point cutting Van’s lead to 28-21 with 6:56 to play in the third quarter.

Following a poor 12-yard punt by the Vandals, the Wildcats were again in Van territory at the 43 setting up their game tying scoring drive.

Five plays later, Davis ran 14 yards for a TD. Ayala added the extra point and the game was tied again, this time at 28-28 with 3:19 still remaining in the third quarter.

Running gains of 15 yards by Gray and 23 yards by Davis set up the TD run by Davis which proved to be the final points of the game for the Wildcats.

Van responded with the first of three consecutive scoring drives to regain control of the contest as they moved 83 yards in four plays.

Moseley ended the march with a 15-yard TD run. McKinney added the extra point giving the Vandals a 35-28 advantage with 2:32 to play in the third quarter.

Pass completions from Moseley covering 55 yards to Brewer and 13 yards to H-back Cade Borgeson set up the go-ahead TD run by the Vandal QB.

Palestine’s next offensive play resulted in a turnover on first down at the Wildcat 35 when Gray’s pass over the middle was tipped and intercepted by Vandal DB Preston at the Wildcat 45.

Eight plays later, Orozco avoided and carried tacklers as he dragged them into the end zone to complete an impressive 14-yard TD run. McKinney added the extra point to give the Vandals a 42-28 advantage with 46 seconds remaining in a high-scoring third quarter.

The Wildcats tried to come back again as they moved from their own 40 to the Vandal 42 in five plays, however, on fourth down and two, the Vandal defense responded as they tackled Davis for a seven-yard loss turning the ball over on downs to Van at the Vandal 49.

Six running plays later, starting RB Davonta Johnson (six carries, 39 yards) raced 19 yards for a TD. McKinney, who made all seven of his extra point attempts, added his final one of the game successfully to give the Vandals a commanding 49-28 lead with 7:53 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Following a Palestine punt, the Vandals moved from their own 37 to the Wildcat 5-yard line on six consecutive running plays including a 45-yard gain by reserve RB Elijah Rankine as the game ended with Van having possession five yards away from the goal line.