HOWE — Van Alstyne’s 1-2 punch of quarterback Tymothe Rosenthal and running back Jaden Mahan propelled the Panthers into the playoffs with a 40-28 win over the Howe Bulldogs in District 5-3A (I) action.


The win was the 13th straight by the second-place Panthers’ (5-4, 4-1) against the Bulldogs (3-7, 2-4) in the Silver Spike rivalry.


Not only did the win clinch a fifth consecutive trip to the postseason for Van Alstyne, which is locked into the second seed for the playoffs, it also eliminated Howe — which was playing its final game since it has the district bye to close out the season. The Bulldogs needed to win, and get help in the other district games on Friday, to stay alive.


Rosenthal put on a first-half show, throwing for three touchdowns. He hit Drelin Davis twice in stride for TD throws of 75 and 41 yards in the second quarter.


He also found Cam Montgomery for a 64-yard touchdown in the closing minutes of the first half on the way to throwing for 269 yards on 10-of-13 attempts as Van Alstyne held a 34-7 half-time advantage.


Montgomery had five catches for 118 yards and Davis finished with four receptions for 116 yards.


Mahan, a freshman, kicked off the scoring with a three-yard run less than three minutes into the game but it was his 92-yard, third quarter TD run which took the air out of the Bulldogs comeback hopes.


“As soon as I saw the hole, I thought I was gone,” Mahan said.


While Mahan said he thought he was gone, after the game he said he thought three Howe defenders were going to catch him from behind. He ran through a diving tackle attempt about the 10-yard line on his way to the end zone.


He finished with 10 carries for 146 yards. Zach Moncier also scored a rushing touchdown, giving the Panthers a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a 12-yard carry.


Bulldogs quarterback Austin Haley threw four touchdown passes in trying to rally Howe.


He combined with Caiden Harmon for two second half TDs, the first one 35 yards early in the third and then for 43 yards with two minutes left in the game on Harmon’s only receptions of the night.


Haley also found Jalen Thornton for an 18-yard second quarter touchdown that capped a 13-play, 70-yard drive. Thornton took the short pass and broke several tackles on his way for the score.


Haley’s final TD was a 28-yarder to Kolby Windon in the game’s final minute to finish 11-of-15 passing for 186 yards.


The Bulldogs managed just 68 yards on 25 carries with Brandon Williams leading the way with six carries for 25 yards.


“The kids never quit all year long,” Howe head coach Bill Jehling said. “I liked the growth I saw, and I like the legacy the seniors built here.”


Van Alstyne finishes out district play by hosting Bonham on Friday before entering the playoffs.