At least three times on Friday it appeared the Anna Coyotes’ Homecoming celebration would be a wash-out. The first involved an end of the world-looking storm cloud that approached from the east near kickoff time and soon delayed the game’s start 45 minutes. The next two involved a pair of two-touchdown deficits supplied by the Van Alstyne Panthers. But through it all, the Coyotes (2-1) prevailed in a steady rain, 30-29, for their third-straight win over their Highway 5 rivals to the north.
It was converted soccer player Gavin Reno’s 20-yard field goal with 2:27 left that provided Anna’s winning margin. This was the senior’s first pressure kick on a football field and he aced it — with a heavy, wet ball.
“It was a lot of nerves,” Reno said. “I just put my mind to it and kicked the ball like I usually do.”
A costly Panthers fumble at their own 30-yard-line set up Reno’s eventual game-winner.
Still, the Coyotes had to sweat a final Van Alstyne drive. Along with big stops by Anna’s Abner Dubar and Trey Cook, that late sequence featured a way-late pass interference call on the Coyotes and a referee’s “inadvertent whistle” that gave the Panthers (0-3) one last shot to win with a 45-yard field goal try and a fresh 8 seconds on the clock. The kick was short and Anna’s celebration began.
“We found a way to keep plugging away, overcoming a lot of things,” Coyotes head coach Jason Heath said. “It’s a testament to those guys. They’ve got to start believing in themselves; they’ve got to start playing more consistent. I was proud of them for the way they kept finding a way to win. There were a lot of things on that final drive that didn’t go our way.”
Van Alstyne’s Jake Carroll bulled for a game-high 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, while quarterback Rhett Gallagher tallied 146 total yards with a TD pass and one rushing score.
Anna countered with Dorian Allen’s 153 yards on 16 carries, including an electrifying 80-yard scoring dash in the second quarter. Coyotes quarterback Junior Rodriguez tossed two touchdown passes to Emmonte Davis and logged a rushing TD, finishing with 116 yards through the air.
Safety Abner Dubar collected a team-high nine tackles for Anna, while linebacker John Mark Box added five and defensive end Logan Rodriguez posted four.
“It means that we have the ability to fight back whenever we’re down,” Anna defensive tackle Rasheed Readus said of the victory. As for the Panthers’ last-ditch drive, Readus said, “It was nerve-wracking. It was hard. We were fighting through it.”
Dubar, who also rushed for 39 bruising yards, said, “It was a great win. We kept fighting and we never gave up. At halftime we just said, ‘This is our Homecoming. They can’t come in here and beat us.’ Our O-line works hard every day in practice and they come here and just execute.” Added Allen, “We started off kind of rough but we came back.”
Carroll got Van Alstyne on the board first with scoring runs of 12 and 27 yards in the opening frame. Down 14-0, Anna came alive in the second quarter with a 12-play, 63-yard drive capped by Rodriguez’ 30-yard touchdown throw to Davis over the middle, a ball that dropped in perfectly over the defender. After an ensuing VA punt, the Coyotes started from their own 26. Two plays later, and after a holding call, Allen charged into the Coyotes’ line and appeared to be wrapped up. Suddenly, he burst through a tackle and raced 80 yards to pay dirt down the near sideline as Anna’s bench erupted. Gavin’s PAT knotted the score at 14.
“It seemed like I was going to go down,” Allen said, “but he just slid off me so I kept my feet moving and kept pushing. I’m proud of my O-line. They pushed me to get my touchdown.”
“There were stacking everybody in the box,” Heath said. “We knew what they were doing. If we could just clear through the line of scrimmage, there’s nobody there.”
The teams traded punts before Gallagher connected with Cam Montgomery to retake the lead before halftime on a 48-yard, tackle-shedding touchdown connection. Dylan Porter’s 2-point conversion catch put the Panthers up, 22-14, at the break.
To start the second half, Van Alstyne moved back to a two-TD advantage on Gallagher’s 8-yard scamper up the middle. The Panthers recovered from a 15-yard personal foul penalty at the Anna 1 on that possession. The Coyotes fought back again, marching to Van Alstyne’s 36, boosted by two more 15-yard Panther penalties - including a player ejection. Dubar also had a 41-yard TD run erased by holding during this sequence but soon burst 11 yards to the VA 25. The drive stalled at the 13 and on 4th-and-goal with under four minutes left Heath dialed up Rodriguez-to-Davis in the end zone for the more-than-clutch touchdown.
Anna moved to the Panthers’ 10 to open the fourth frame and from there Rodriguez skirted left and cut it up for another touchdown. The 2-point conversion run failed and the Coyotes trailed, 29-27, with six minutes remaining. Then, as if ordered up by Anna’s Homecoming crowd, Van Alstyne fumbled on its next play from scrimmage setting the stage for Reno’s decisive boot.
Anna 30, Van Alstyne 29
VA - Jake Carroll 12 run (run failed), 3:56
VA - Jake Carroll 27 run (Drelin Davis pass from Rhett Gallagher), 1:00
A - Emmonte Davis 30 pass from Junior Rodriguez (Gavin Reno kick), 6:48
A - Dorian Allen 80 run (Gavin Reno kick), 4:22
VA - Cam Montgomery 48 pass from Rhett Gallagher (Dylan Porter pass from Rhett Gallagher), 0:07
VA - Rhett Gallagher 8 run (Austin Moore kick), 8:20
A - Emmonte Davis 13 pass from Junior Rodriguez (Gavin Reno kick), 3:39
A - Junior Rodriguez 10 run (run failed), 6:00
A - Gavin Reno 20 FG, 2:57
Stats VA Anna
First Downs 16 15
Rushes-yards 33-215 47-220
Passing yards 86 116
C-A-I 8-16-0 8-11-0
Punts-average 4-43 3-44.3
Penalties-yards 6-65 7-78
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Rushing - Van Alstyne: Jake Carroll 22-155, Rhett Carroll 11-60; Anna: Dorian Allen 16-153, Abner Dubar 13-39, Junior Rodriguez 17-39, Gavin Reno 1-(-11).
Passing - Van Alstyne: Rhett Gallagher 8-16-0-86; Anna: Junior Rodriguez 8-11-0-166.
Receiving - Van Alstyne: Cam Montgomery 1-48, Drelin Davis 2-12, Dylan Porter 2-10, Jake Carroll 1-8, Nathan Cuthbertson 2-5, Austin Moore 1-3; Anna: Emmonte Davis 3-70, Noah Palshaw 4-29, Dorian Allen 1-17.