Van Alstyne defense sparks homecoming win

By Griff Servati
For the Van Alstyne Leader
Dakota Howard returns one of his three interceptions on the night for a touchdown.

Dakota Howard sparks Van Alstyne's win with three interceptions, including his first-quarter "pick-six." It is not a secret; the Panthers want to get the ball into the hands of its big play-maker Dakota Howard. In the Anna game, with seconds left on the clock and the defense in a prevent situation, Gavin Montgomery would drop a sixty touchdown pass to a streaking Howard. In the Gainesville game, the Leopards had just scored and seemed to have had grabbed momentum going into the half, except they forgot one thing: don't give the ball to Howard. The Leopards would kick off to Howard, and he would go 74 yards untouched for a score.

Gavin Bybee moves the ball down the field in the homecoming win over Bullard.
Nic Loya stacks up the ball carrier and most of the Bullard team.

Friday night in the matchup against Bullard, the first quarter was a defensive stalemate until Dakota Howard would again change the game, this time from his position of defensive safety. With just seconds before the end of the quarter, Howard would make a break on the ball, intercept it, and race forty-seven yards down the sideline for the first score of the game.

In a game that Gavin Montgomery would not be allowed to get around the edge, and be held to negative yards rushing, power tailback Jaden Mahan would prove his worth with power running up the middle. Mahan rushed for 93 yards on the evening and would add a second-quarter touchdown. The Panthers would lead 17-0 going into half-time and add a short scoring run by Gavin Montgomery to take a 24-0 lead in the second half.

Keegan Daily with a sack and forced fumble.
Colby Hayes dives for the fumble recovery.

In an evening where the big play on the edge was not happening, critical chain-moving receptions by Jackson Allen over the middle proved crucial. His three receptions earned him the Offensive Player of the Week by the coaching staff. Allen also added to his importance on the field with an interception on defense.

VAHS Heach Coach Mikeal Miller commented on what limited the high power offense on the evening, "Offensively, we struggled to establish our run game all night. We busted on some assignments and once again had some costly penalties that kept us from being consistent. Once again, we will be looking to establish some consistency offensively." One of the penalties negated an 80-yard scoring run by Gavin Montgomery.

Gavin Bybee moves the ball down the field in the homecoming win over Bullard.

The Panther defense would only allow one score on the evening, forcing five turnovers: four interceptions and a fumble. Forcing poor decisions in the passing game starts with the defensive pass rush. Leading the attack for the Panthers were Nic Loya and Keegan Daily, who combined for four sacks on the evening. One of those sacks by Daily would result in a fumble and recovery by Colby Hayes. The defense was led in tackles by Caden Whitley and Dakota Howard with six and Logan Young and Jaden Mahan each with five.

Coach Mikeal Miller was proud of his defense, "I felt like our defense played very well against Bullard. We were very physical, got lined up correctly, and limited their big plays. Had multiple turnovers, three and outs, and stops on 4th downs."

The Panthers now enter the critical part of the season, district play. The Panthers are part of a five-team district with Krum, Celina, Sanger, and Aubrey. The Panthers face off with Krum this Friday at 7:30 pm vs. Krum at Panther stadium. With such a small district, winning the first game would put the Panthers in the playoffs.

Mackenzie Bigham was named Homecoming Queen for 2021.
2021 Homecoming Queen Mackenzie Bigham.
Homecoming King Jordan Ayers and Queen Mackenzie Bigham.