PRINCTON — The Van Alstyne Panthers went up against the Sunnyvale Raiders on Friday, Nov. 17, in a powerhouse 2017 Football Conference 3A D1 tournament match-up. In an intense game of inches, it came down to key mistakes and breaks that lead to a, 35-19, Sunnyvale win as the team claimed their first playoff victory of the season.
The Panthers opened the game with possession on the 25-yard line, hoping to take an early lead. Sunnyvale player Kenderick Hill denied them that as he picked off a Rhett Gallagher pass intended for Dylan Porter. Hill would run it back to set up the Raiders beautifully on the 1-yard line for their first possession of the game.
Chance Work then bulldozed in the end zone for a Raiders touchdown in the first six seconds of the game. Austin Wilkerson capped the early score off with a true kick, as Sunnyvale now lead 7-0.
Van Alstyne wouldn’t respond until their third drive, when Justin Barnes would bully the Sunnyvale defense with a bruising 36-yard run, putting the panthers within 12 yards of the goal line. Rhett Gallagher would pick up those 12 yards with his own run, making the score 7-6. A failed two point conversion would keep it there.
Sunnyvale player Ronnie Mcada would respond their next drive with a 37-yard run of his own, a 10-yard pass to Trevor Tutle and two more 12-yard runs. After a holding call on the Van Alstyne defense — with a 9-yard run by Work and a good kick by Wilkerson — the Raiders took the reclaimed the lead, 14-7.
Sunnyvale would continue their offensive assault with a steady drive at the beginning of the second quarter, ending in a 1-yard Work touchdown. Another good kick put the Raiders up 21-6.
In true heavyweight bout fashion, the Panthers scored their very next possession after a run heavy drive. Barnes took the ball across the goal line on a 9-yard run with 19 seconds left in the half. After another failed two point conversion Van Alstyne kept the game interesting with a, 21-12, going into half time.
With the help of their great O-line, the Panthers were dominant on the ground the first half, serving as a shining light for their offensive play.
“We got lucky and only lost one starter last year, so we knew coming into this season they would be great and they’ve gotten the job done all year.” Coach Miller said of his offensive line.
The Panthers came out of the tunnel in the third quarter determined to take back the game. After a stale mate to begin the half, both defenses shined. But in their ninth drive of game, the Panthers would capitalize on a Sunnyvale fumble on the 27-yard line. Chipping away, Barnes would barrel into the end zone on a 1-yard run. After a good Austin Moore kick, Van Alstyne jumped back into the game, 21-19.
However it would be all Sunnyvale for the rest of the game.
“We struggled to get anything going offensively on a consistent basis,” Van Alstyne head coach Mike Miller commented. “We had some penalties that cost us, its hard to execute when you aren’t being consistent.”
The Raiders would capitalize on a Van Alstyne fumble at the end of the third quarter, and a 95-yard kick off return by Patrick Jones would give Sunnyvale the lead, 28-19.
They would follow this up with another score with 2:46 left of play, putting the final dagger in with a score of, 35-19, ending Van Alstyne’s playoff hopes.
“I’m proud of them,” Coach Miller said about his team. “At the end of the day its a game, we learned a lot of life lessons and had a lot of fun this season. I hate the way it ended, especially for our seniors. I just hope everyone enjoyed this year — I know I did.”