Vandals outlast Athens in offensive shootout, 56-38

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The scoreboard at Van’s Memorial Stadium was kept plenty busy Friday night as the Van Vandals rallied with 42 unanswered points to outlast the visiting Athens Hornets, 56-38, in a battle of early District 8-4A, Division I co-leaders.

Coach Jared Moffatt’s Vandals are now 6-0 overall and 2-0 in district play as they will visit Brownsboro at 7:30 p.m. Friday to take on the surprising Brownsboro Bears, currently 4-1 overall and 1-0 in district action after blowing past the 0-2 Mabank Panthers, 47-16, Friday night in Mabank. Athens falls to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in district play.

The Kaufman Lions are the only other remaining unbeaten team in district play as they moved to 2-0 in league play with a 29-14 win over the 0-2 Crandall Pirates in Kaufman Friday night. The Terrell Tigers, 0-1 in the district, enjoyed an open date Friday night.

Van and Athens combined for 94 points, 45 first downs and 1,001 yards of total offense as the two teams registered 13 touchdown drives with neither team suffering a turnover and totaling two punts, both by Athens.

The Vandals finished with 20 first downs and 515 yards of total offense (357 passing and 158 rushing) while the Hornets recorded 25 first downs and 486 total yards (339 rushing and 147 passing) in the three-hour scoring marathon.

Quarterback Garrett Moseley completed 11 out of 12 passes for 291 yards and five touchdown passes in addition to running for two other TD’s as he rushed for 39 yards on six carries.

Elijah Rankine carried the ball nine times for 100 yards rushing and he caught two passes for 74 yards and one TD.

Receiver Gus Brewer caught five passes for 154 yards including TD receptions of 27, 41 and 66 yards against the Hornets.

Van’s offense averaged a staggering 12.88 yards per play on 40 plays from scrimmage including 29.75 yards per pass reception and 27.46 yards per pass attempt.

The two teams scored on their first seven offensive possessions combined as Athens received the opening kickoff and took over eight minutes off the first quarter clock moving 75 yards in 15 plays (14 running).

Hornet QB Xavier Fulton (16 carries, 93 yards) ended the time-consuming drive with a 5-yard TD run. On the extra point attempt, Jordon Mayhall, the holder, fumbled the snap but ran the ball in successfully for the two-point conversion as the Hornets stunned the Vandals early taking an 8-0 advantage with 3:44 remaining in the first quarter.

An 11-yard pass completion from Fulton to Mayhill, the only Hornet passing attempt in its opening scoring drive, a 16-yard run by Fulton and two Vandal offsides penalties were key plays in the first Athens TD march.

The Vandals answered by moving 67 yards in 11 plays to get on the scoreboard as Moseley, on the first play of the second quarter, ended the march with a 1-yard TD run. Calen McKinney added the extra point to cut the Vandal deficit to one point, 8-7, with 11:56 to play in the second quarter.

Key plays in the first Vandal scoring drive included a pass completions from Moseley covering 10 yards to Brewer and 14 yards to Rankine in addition to a 10-yard run by running back Davonta Johnson.

The Hornets needed only five plays to move 51 yards and extend their lead as Fulton ended the march with a 1-yard TD run. The extra point attempt was good giving Athens a 15-7 lead with 9:26 to play in the second quarter.

A 39-yard pass completion from Fulton to RB Javiry Bowman was a key play in the scoring drive for the Hornets.

It only took the Vandals two offensive plays to move 83 yards on their next series of downs to draw closer to Athens as Moseley connected with Brewer on a 27-yard TD pass play after Rankine ran 56 yards to open the short scoring march. McKinney added the extra point to draw Van within one point of Athens at 15-14 with 8:41 still to play before halftime.

Three plays were needed for the Hornets to move 86 yards on its next offensive possession and score again as Fulton connected with tight end Rowdy Godwin on a 29-yard TD pass play. The extra point was again successful giving Athens a 22-14 advantage with still 7:59 to play before intermission.

A 57-yard run by freshman RB Nathan Sims (25 carries, 135 yards) set up the TD pass play by the Hornet offense.

Van responded by moving 75 yards in five plays to again move to within one point of the lead as Moseley connected with Brewer on a 41-yard TD pass play. McKinney added the extra point to cut Van’s deficit to 22-21 with 5:40 still remaining in the second quarter.

A 10-yard pass completion from Moseley to Brewer and a 13-yard run by Rankine set up the TD pass play for the Vandals.

Van’s defense forced an Athens punt on the Hornets’ next offensive possession as the Vandals took over controls at the Van 40.

On the next play from scrimmage, Moseley connected with Rankine on a 60-yard TD pass play. McKinney added the extra point to give Van its first lead of the game, 28-22, with 4:30 remaining in the first half of action.

Athens then threatened to cut into Van’s lead before intermission as the Hornets moved from their own 23 to the Vandal 26 in 11 plays including a 17-yard pass completion from Fulton to Godwin and a 12-yard run by Fulton.

Facing fourth down and nine at the Vandal 26, Athens decided to go for a 43-yard field goal attempt but the kick was wide left allowing Van to run out the first half clock and take a six-point lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Vandals began to widen their lead early in the third quarter as Moseley connected with receiver Bray Doring on a 71-yard TD pass play on the second play from scrimmage after halftime. McKinney added the extra point to give the Vandals a 35-22 lead with 10:43 remaining in the third quarter.

Following an Athens punt, the Vandals began their next scoring drive at their own 29 as a 71-yard drive ended with an 8-yard TD pass play from Moseley to Doring. McKinney added the extra point to give the Vandals a 42-22 advantage with 4:59 to play in the third quarter.

A 48-yard pass completion from Moseley to receiver Ethan Robinson began the scoring march for the Vandals.

Athens set up in punt formation at its own 30 on fourth down and 10 when Fulton, the punter, attempted a fake punt but his pass over the middle was incomplete giving Van excellent field position at the Hornet 30.

Four plays later, Moseley ran 13 yards for a TD. McKinney added the extra point to give the Vandals a 49-22 lead with 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The Hornets threatened to cut into the Vandal lead early in the fourth quarter as they moved from their own 17 to the Van 28 in nine plays including a 12-yard run by Fulton and two Vandal defensive penalties (offsides and illegal use of hands) setting up a fourth down and three.

The scoring threat for Athens ended as Sims was tackled for a two-yard loss by the Vandal defense giving Van possession at its own 30.

Three plays later on third down and six, reserve QB Liam Nielson connected with Brewer on a 66-yard TD pass play. McKinney added the last of his eight extra points to give the Vandals a commanding 56-22 advantage with 4:43 to play in the game.

Athens showed no signs of quitting as they needed only three plays to move 75 yards for their next TD as reserve QB Andrew McBride raced 53 yards for a TD and then connected with WR Gary Lyons on a successful two-point conversion cutting Van’s lead to 56-30 with 3:28 remaining. McBride opened the short drive with a 22-yard run.

After Van reserve RB Michael Daudpota was tackled for a one-yard loss on fourth down and four, the Hornets began their final scoring march at their own 48.

Eight plays later, Mayhall ended the drive with a 3-yard TD run. McBride ran in the two-point conversion cutting Van’s lead to 56-38 with 14 seconds to play in the game.

Pass completions from McBride covering 18 yards to Lyons and 20 yards to Bowman were key plays in the final scoring drive for Athens.