Van Alstyne comes up short against Anna
VAN ALSTYNE — The setting was different but the Anna-Van Alstyne match-up was very much like last year’s game. Anna raced out to an early lead, only to have the Panthers fight their way back, but the Coyotes would hang on for a 42-35 victory in non-district play.
Dakota Howard had 11 catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns, Gavin Montgomery completed 15-of-21 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns and ran 21 times for 126 yards and two TDs, Lucas Lindley added a touchdown grab and Jaden Mahan ran for 79 yards on 18 carries for Van Alstyne (2-1), which travels to Gainesville on Friday night.
“We knew Anna was very athletic and explosive offensively," VA head coach Mikeal Miller said. "Our game plan was to come out and try to slow it down a little bit and move the ball, chew up a lot of clock.”
It did not take long for Anna (3-0), which has already matched its win total from last season, to prove Miller right. Anna scored on the opening play with an 80-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Daniel McNair to Sinclare Blakey.
McNair completed 25-of-57 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and also ran for a score. Malachi Brooks caught eight passes for 86 yards and three touchdowns.
On the Panthers' second drive, their game plan was evident as they drove 62 yards on seven plays. Montgomery scored a 24-yard read-option run.
Anna countered with a score on a one-yard run by McNair on the ensuing drive; however, the drama came on a play prior with a quarterback sneak up the middle on fourth-and-one.
The ref on the Van Alstyne sideline signaled that the Panthers had held, initiating a “party on the numbers” for the Panther sideline as coaches joined players in celebration with players leaving the field. However, the Coyotes were awarded the first down and the defense rushed back into position as Anna snapped the ball.
The Panthers' next drive was one that Miller made note of.
“We executed our game plan but had two series where penalties backed us up, and we are not good enough yet to come out of it yet.”
The possession was affected by a holding call, then on the next play an illegal block added fifteen yards to the Panthers, creating a second-and-28 situation. After Van Alstyne punted, it took Anna only two plays to cover 60 yards and score for a 20-7 lead.
The Panthers responded to keep the game from getting out of reach with an 80-yard drive on eleven plays, the biggest of which was a completion from Montgomery to Jackson Allen for a 27 yards. An eight-yard touchdown run by Montgomery capped off the drive.
Before the half, Anna added another touchdown by Jambres Dubar, who had 17 carries for 103 yards, with only 41 seconds remaining.
The Panthers were able to put something together despite the limited time on the clock when it sent the speedy Howard on a streaking sideline route. He got past the Anna defenders where Montgomery dropped the ball in Howard's hands in stride for a 60-yard touchdown. The Coyotes would hold a 28-20 lead going into halftime.
Van Alstyne tied the game in the third quarter after a forced punt by the defense. The tandem of Montgomery-to-Howard was prevalent on the drive, including a fourth-and-three completion and the eight-yard touchdown reception.
The Panthers pulled even with a successful two-point conversion run by Montgomery.
After going scoreless in the third quarter, Anna had two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 42-28. Van Alstyne scored with a 27-yard pass from Montgomery to Lindley which capped off an 83-yard drive and got VA within a touchdown but did take over five minutes off the clock.
After a failed onside kick, the Coyotes were able to run off the remaining minutes on the clock for the victory.
“Overall, Anna is an outstanding football team; we will learn from this game," Miller said. "But I am proud of my boys and their effort tonight and their fight and determination.”
Van Alstyne 35