VAN ALSTYNE — If the Van Alstyne Panthers are feeling any additional pressure going into their Class 2A Division I Region II area round game against Malakoff, they didn’t show it during a very loose practice session on Tuesday.
The team and coaching staff prepared to face a Tiger team that has averaged almost 56 points per game.
Malakoff (10-1) has eight offensive starters back from last year’s regional finalist team and they come into Friday’s game against Van Alstyne (7-4) at E.H. Hanby Stadium in Mesquite after a 41-14 win over Queen City.
"They are a fundamentally sound football team, they have good size on their line and they have two running backs with speed," Van Alstyne head coach Mikeal Miller said.
Those two running backs, Damontes and Marcus Dowell, both rushed for over 100 yards in the bi-district win.
"They have a running game similar to what we saw in the Melissa and Frisco Lone Star games," Miller said. "They don’t pass the ball as well as those two did, but they emphasize the run game."
Van Alstyne defensive standout, Dalton Jones was also impressed with the speed of the Malakoff team.
"We definitely will have to control the edge, that’s where their strength is," Jones said. "If we can pinch them to the inside, we have a really good shot at controlling the game."
Van Alstyne hopes that its offense can have a say in controlling the game as well by winning the time-of-possession battle.
The Panther coaching staff is expecting Malakoff to load up the box on defense, just as Farmersville and Boyd did, trying to stop the run.
Van Alstyne quarterback Alex Phillips thinks his team can overcome that with their preparation.
"They have a good defense, but if we can avoid turnovers and just execute our game plan, we should be all right," Phillips said.
The Van Alstyne offense has been in the area’s top ten all season and Phillips has been a key contributor in that success, rushing for almost 1,400 yards this season. Phillips has rushed for 22 touchdowns and thrown for nine more.
This will be Van Alstyne’s second appearance in an area round game since the 2001 season.