VA can't complete comeback against Loboes

Griff Servati
For the Herald Democrat
Van Alstyne's Dakota Howard returns a kickoff for a touchdown during the Panthers' area-round loss to Monahans.

ABILENE — For the second week in a row Van Alstyne’s playoff game came down to a defensive stand on the final possession and in both games, the defense secured the win.

The problem for the Panthers was that unlike their bi-district victory over Iowa Park, this time VA was the team trying to score as the seconds ticked off the clock.

A furious rally in the final quarter and a half after trailing 19-0 ended one score short as the Monahans Loboes hung on for a 35-28 victory over Van Alstyne in a Class 4A Division II Region I area round game at Shotwell Stadium.

Monahans (9-3) will face Van Alstyne’s districtmate Aubrey in the region semifinals. VA (8-4) was trying to advance to the third round for the first time since 2011.

The Panthers had a great opportunity to score in the first half when an unsportsmanlike penalty on a Lobo touchdown, combined with a failed onside kick, set the Panthers up on Monahans’ half of the field.

Van Alstyne put together a good drive but eventually faced fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line. The Panthers tried a power run with Jaden Mahan, who was hit as he approached the end zone and fell forward.

The Panthers thought they had scored, and fans agreed after seeing the replay on the Jumbotron, but the ball was placed with the tip just short of the goal line and Monahans took over.

Cheno Navarrette scored on a two-yard keeper late in the first quarter and Adan Saucedo had a 17-yard TD run early in the second quarter as the Loboes were up 13-0 after the extra points was blocked.

It stayed that way into the second half when Monahans was up 19-0 with 7:21 to go in the third quarter.

The Panthers began their comeback attempt with Mahan leading the way on the ground before Gavin Montgomery’s 12-yard touchdown passes to Jackson Allen with 4:30 remaining in the third.

Van Alstyne got the ball back on downs with a tackle for loss by Colby Hayes and a pass broken up by Dakota Howard.

Monahans was able to keep the Panthers off the board with an interception in the end zone and the Loboes carried that 19-7 advantage to the fourth quarter.

Van Alstyne got a three-and-out and a poor punt attempt gave the Panthers a short field. Howard caught a pass, Montgomery picked up yardage on the ground and Mahan finished off the possession with a three-yard TD run to make it a five-point deficit less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

Monahans restored its double-digit lead when Navarrette led a drive that saw the Loboes end up scoring on fourth-and-goal from the three-yard line. After picking up the two-point conversion it was a 27-14 margin in the middle of the fourth.

Van Alstyne’s ensuing possession nearly ended with a fumble but Panther lineman Riordan Maloney was on it under the pile to keep the series going. Montgomery capped the drive with a scramble to the left and he found Allen behind a defender along the sideline for a 45-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 27-21 with just under five minutes remaining.

But Monahans put together its final scoring drive, which proved to be just enough. Navarrette had a 45-yard keeper and Tanner Jones scored from nine yards out. The two-point conversion made it 35-21 with 2:20 to go.

Howard kept Van Alstyne’s hopes alive when he returned the kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown and the Panthers made one final stand on sacks by Nic Loya and Caden Whitley to get the ball back to the offense with a chance to at least force overtime.

But the Panthers were unable to find the tying touchdown in the final minute and Monahans held on to advance.