VAN ALSTYNE—The Van Alstyne Panthers turned in arguably their best football performance of the season, coming up a yard short in a 30-24 overtime loss to Pottsboro on Oct. 28.
Facing a 4-and-17 situation in the overtime period, a sophomore Rhett Gallagher to junior Chase Wilson pass covered 16 of those yards, game officials said.
Pottsboro quarterback Carson Rein carried the ball four consecutive times on the Cardinals’ overtime possession, scoring on a 5-yard run to notch the win.
The victory gave Pottsboro its sixth consecutive district championship as they capture the 5-3A (1) league crown.
Van Alstyne joins a four-team logjam with 2-2 records heading into the final weekend of action.
With both starting quarterbacks out with injuries, backups responded with stellar performances in the contest.
Van Alstyne sophomore starter Gage Proctor missed his second consecutive game and his return date is uncertain.
Gallagher threw three touchdown passes and that put the Panthers on top, 24-10 at the half.
Pottsboro’s Rein, a senior filling in for Hunter Watson, rushed for 214 yards, 128 in the second half.
The Van Alstyne defense got the game off to a positive start as senior Grayson Leinart picked off a Pottsboro pass on the first play of the game.
A Gallagher to senior De’Angelo Alexander pass covered 11 yards of an 11-play, 59-yard drive, capped by a 17-yard scoring pass from Gallagher to Leinart.
Junior Scott Taylor booted the first of his 3-point after kicks to get the Panthers off to a 7-0 start.
Pottsboro answered with a touchdown drive, ended on a 28-yard pass play from Heath Hunter to Jack Arnold. Dane Marburger’s kick tied the game at 7-7.
Hunter suffered his second interception on Pottsboro’s next possession, and the Panthers made them pay for that miscue.
Gallagher picked up 13 yards on a carry up the middle to the Cardinals 5-yard line. After a loss, Gallagher connected with Wilson on a 10-yard touchdown toss to get the Panthers on top, 14-7.
Marburger booted a 30-yard field goal to cut the Van Alstyne lead to four midway through the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Van Alstyne took the fight back to the visitors, grinding out a 67-yard march, keyed by a 45-yard run by senior Levi Jones.
Jones finished with 206 yards on 30 carries for the night.
The drive stalled at the Cardinal 11-yard line and Taylor booted a 28-yard field goal to get the Van Alstyne lead back to seven.
The Panther defense stopped Pottsboro on its next possession as senior Koi Beck and sophomore Ben Williams stuffed a Rein run at the Van Alstyne 30-yard line.
A 15-yard run by Jones got the drive started and it ended with a sweet, 27-yard hook up between Gallagher and Alexander on a post route with just a minute left in the half.
Beck picked off a Pottsboro pass to send the Panthers to the locker room with a 24-10 lead.
Pottsboro didn’t win six straight district titles, never losing a league game in those six seasons, without some talent.
Rein proved to be too much for the Panthers on this night.
On Pottsboro’s first possession of the second half Rein found a seam up the middle and raced 50 yards for a score. Marburger’s point-after kick missed, but the Panther lead had been cut to eight.
Rein carried the ball three times for 22 yards on the Cardinals’ next possession, then found Myles Mutchusson in the end zone on a 36-yard pass play. Rein then passed to Matthew Poe for the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 24-24.
Penalties and mistakes plagued both teams in a scoreless fourth quarter.
Pottsboro’s Eric de la Cruz picked off a Gallagher pass early and penalties and some outstanding defensive work by the Panthers held Pottsboro in check.
Marburger missed on a 38-yard field goal attempt and Beck and senior Landon Pardee stopped Mutchusson on a third down run to force a Pottsboro punt late in the period.
With 1:30 left, Van Alstyne drove to the Pottsboro 17-yard line on a Jones-Cayson Miller play. Jones had picked up 18 yards on a carry, fumbled, and Miller recovered and rumbled a dozen yards to the 17.
With just seconds left in the game, a Taylor field goal try from 35-yards out went wide, sending the teams to the overtime.
Backed up by two penalties on the Panthers possession, Gallagher’s pass to Wilson reached the first down marker before being fumbled out of bounds.
There is no replay or review in high school football, but this veteran officiating crew saw it one way, the Panthers faithful another and that gave Pottsboro the win.
Van Alstyne will travel to Pilot Point on Nov. 4 for a crucial playoff battle as four teams hunt for three playoff berths.