MELISSA- Van Alstyne High School’s football program is looking tough for the start of the 2017 season. The Panthers are ready to take on the competition in the regular season after a 7-0 victory over Melissa on August 24 at Cardinal Stadium. Senior running back and kicker Scott Taylor highlighted the game for the Panthers by earning the game-winning touchdown and field goal for the extra point.

Customarily, coaching staff and the players usually take a steady pace with preseason scrimmages and do not focus on scoring or game statistics.

“It’s really more of a competitive practice,” Van Alstyne High School football head coach Mikeal Miller said. “It was difficult to tell the game was a scrimmage with the amount of Panther team members, staff, and supporters made the trip south on US Highway 5 to support their home team. The teams are a part of the long-standing rivalry between the teams from schools along the area of North Texas referred to as interurban alley.”

“Were just trying to get some competition in,” Melissa High School football head coach Seth Stinton said. “It’s just competitive. We are competing against each other and just trying to get better.”

“Having both of our quarterbacks back, our offensive line will be returning a lot of people,” he added. The offense will be boasting the most returning starters with quarterbacks Gage Proctor and Rhett Gallagher from the previous season returning.

Following the scrimmage victory over Melissa, junior quarterback Proctor leads the Panther offense into the 2017 season after throwing a total of 65 pass completions out of 112 attempts for a total of 896 passing yards in 2016. Proctor is going into the 2017 season with an average of 13.8 yards per pass completions and a total of 128 passing yards per game.

Gallagher ended the 2016 season with 35 pass completions out of 66 attempts for a total of 296 passing yards. Gallagher averaged 8.5 yards per completion and 32.9 passing yards per game in the 2016 season.

One could easily observe the Panthers and Cardinals playing with the same energy and effort they would during a regular season or postseason game. The coaching staff for both teams use the competition as a chance to smooth out the lineups and plays and fine-tune the teams. The low-scoring matchup was the result of this decision.

The scrimmage may not affect Van Alstyne’s standings but it did give the team a chance to work out the kinks for the forthcoming competitions. Meanwhile, Melissa’s junior quarterback Brendon Lewis towered over many players on the field at a height of 6-foot 3-inches, and in front of Lewis stood an intimidating offensive line with a combined weight of more than 1000 pounds.

Despite the sizeable advantage Melissa would appear to have with the team’s offensive line, the Cardinals could not overcome the formidable Van Alstyne defense and the tide turned quickly in favor of Van Alstyne in the second half.

A relaxing evening was not the case for the rival teams. Panthers and Cardinals, as well as those in attendance, were treated to a dramatic competition between two local rivals. The climactic play was the peak of the game as the Panther fans cheered Taylor on as he broke through the Cardinal defense into the end zone for 80 yards to earn the sole touchdown of the game.

Taylor and the Panthers will take the field against Dallas Hutchins on Friday to officially begin the 2017 season.