By David Barber
CANTON –Two Van Zandt County rivals warmed up for this week’s Class 3-A bidistrict playoffs by settling some unfinished business in the District 15-3A race Friday night.
When the dust settled, the Van Vandals outlasted the Canton Eagles, 35-21, as both teams concluded their regular season schedules with records of 4-6.
With the victory, the Vandals finished in second place in District 15-3A at 4-1 behind the undefeated Athens Hornets while the Eagles ended up in third place in the district with a 3-2 mark.
Coach Jared Moffatt’s Vandals now enter the “large school” division of the Class 3-A bidistrict round by taking on the District 16-3A champion Kilgore Bulldogs Friday night in Lindale with kickoff slated for 7 p.m.
Kilgore, the number two- ranked team in the state in Class 3-A, upset the top-ranked Gilmer Buckeyes Friday night to capture the District 16-3A title.
Coach Robert Ivey’s Eagles will meet Gladewater out of District 16-3A in the “small school” division of the bidistrict playoffs tonight (Thursday) at Lindale with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.
District 15-3A champion Athens will meet Chapel Hill from District 16-3A in the “large school” division of the bidistrict playoffs Friday night in Tyler.
The Mineola Yellowjackets defeated the Mabank Panthers, 42-28, Friday night in Mabank to capture fourth place and the final playoff berth in District 15-3A.
Mineola will take on Gilmer tonight (Thursday) in Tyler in the “small school” division of the bidistrict playoffs.
In the Van/Canton contest, two individual efforts led the offensive units for the Vandals and the Eagles.
Van running back Matt Savis registered 301 yards rushing on 39 carries and three touchdowns.
Canton quarterback Chandler Eiland totaled 327 yards of offense and two TD’s.
The junior QB led the Eagles with 138 yards rushing on 23 carries and one TD in addition to completing 14 out of 27 passes for 189 yards and one TD.
The two teams finished with 41 first downs and 792 yards of total offense.
Van finished with 24 first downs and 456 total yards including 332 rushing and 124 passing.
Canton registered 17 first downs and 336 total yards including 147 yards rushing and 189 yards passing.
Following an exchange of punts to open the contest, the Vandals got on the scoreboard first by moving 68 yards in seven plays.
QB Peter Maddox ended the march with a 13-yard TD run. Josef Ruiz added the extra point to give the Vandals a 7-0 lead with 1:50 remaining in the first quarter as the Vandals never trailed in the game.
Key plays in the first Vandal scoring drive included running gains of 14 and 11 yards by Savis, an 11-yard run by Maddox and an 11-yard pass completion from Maddox to wide receiver Layton Myers.
Following a Canton punt, the Vandals extended their lead by moving 87 yards in seven plays.
Maddox (eight completions, 14 attempts, 124 yards) connected with Myers (three receptions, 51 yards) on a 28-yard TD pass play to end the march. Ruiz added the extra point to give the Vandals a 14-0 advantage with 10:13 to play in the second quarter.
Key plays in the Vandal scoring drive included a 35-yard pass completion from Maddox to WR Kendrick Jones and a 14-yard run by Savis.
The Eagles responded by moving from their own 22 to the Vandal 34 in four plays including a 40-yard pass completion from Eiland to WR Ryan Slider.
On fourth down and six, the scoring threat for Canton came to an end as Eiland’s pass to Slider was incomplete giving Van possession.
Canton’s defense got on the scoreboard four plays later on third down and eight when Maddox fumbled with Slider picking up the loose ball and racing 28 yards down the sideline for an Eagle TD. Scott Munroe added the extra point to cut the Eagle deficit to 14-7 in the second quarter.
The Vandals came right back as they moved 57 yards on five consecutive carries by Savis to extend their lead.
Savis ended the drive with a 2-yard TD run. Ruiz added the extra point to give the Vandals a 21-7 lead with 5:57 to play in the second quarter.
The Vandal RB had running gains of 20, 14 and 12 yards in the scoring drive.
Canton quickly rallied by moving 77 yards in two plays to cut into the Vandal lead again.
Eiland ran 30 yards for a TD and Munroe added the extra point to bring the Eagles back within seven points at 21-14 with 5:06 remaining before halftime.
The short scoring march began with a 52-yard pass completion from Eiland to Slider (three receptions, 63 yards).
Momentum continued to go back and forth as the Vandals regained a two TD advantage by advancing 73 yards in six plays on their next possession.
Savis ended the march with a 6-yard TD run. Ruiz added the extra point to give the Vandals a 28-14 lead with 3:43 to play in the second quarter.
Pass completions from Maddox of 12 yards to Myers and 31 yards to WR Luke McGowan in addition to an 11-yard run by Savis were key plays in the Vandal scoring drive.
Canton threatened on its next offensive series as the Eagles moved from their own 37 to the Vandal 6-yard line in seven plays including a 32-yard run by Eiland.
On fourth down and goal at the Vandal 6-yard line, Eiland’s pass to WR Brad Wiggins was incomplete allowing the Vandals to run out the first half clock.
Following a Vandal punt early in the third quarter, the Eagles rallied by moving 85 yards in 12 plays.
Eiland connected with WR Logan Nace on a 16-yard TD pass completion to end the time-consuming march. Cody Smith added the extra point to cut the Eagle deficit to 28-21 with 4:36 to play in the third quarter.
Key plays in the Eagle scoring march included pass completions from Eiland covering 32 yards to WR Smith and 19 yards to Wiggins (four receptions, 65 yards).
The Vandals threatened to extend their advantage as they moved from their own 33 to the Eagle 36 in five plays including a 14-yard run by Savis.
Facing fourth down and two at the Canton 36, Savis was stopped inches short of the first down marker giving the Eagles possession.
The Eagles were later forced to punt and the Vandals put together a drive of 55 yards in four plays to end the scoring.
Savis ended the drive with a 10-yard TD run. Ruiz added the extra point to give the Vandals a 35-21 advantage with 56 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Key plays in the Vandal scoring drive included running gains of 11 and 24 yards by Savis.
Canton moved from its own 30 to the Vandal 35 in six plays including a 23-yard run by Eiland.
On fourth down and one at the Vandal 35, Eiland was tackled for a two-yard loss giving the Vandals possession with a 14-point lead and 9:52 to play in the fourth quarter.
Van then took over four minutes off the clock as they moved from their own 37 to the Eagle 12 in nine plays (eight running) including gains of 26 and 11 yards by Savis.
On fourth down and goal at the Canton 12, Ruiz was sent in to attempt a 29-yard field goal but the kick was wide right giving Canton one final offensive possession at the Eagle 20.
Five plays later, including an 11-yard pass completion from Eiland to RB Jordan Jackson, the Eagles moved as deep as the Canton 33 before being forced to punt.
Five consecutive running plays by Savis, including a 12-yard gain, allowed the Vandals to run out the clock and end the regular season finale for both squads.