DISTRICT 8-4A DIVISION I

Van Vandals (4-1)

vs.

Athens Hornets (3-2)

7:30 p.m. Friday

Bruce Field, Athens

Coaches
  • Van: Jared Moffatt
  • Athens: Paul Essary
Last week
  • Van: idle
  • Athens: idle
Next week
  • Van: vs. Crandall, Oct. 16
  • Athens: vs. Mabank, Oct. 16

Playmakers

Van

 

  • RB Aphonso Thomas, Sr., 6-0, 190 (102 carries, 756 yards, 11 TDs; 803 all-purpose yards)
  • OL Clay Gandy, Sr.
  • DB Cooper Bledsoe, Jr., 6-0, 165 (77 tackles, 5 PBU, 2 TFL)
  • K Jozef Ruiz, Sr., 5-8, 165 (27 for 27 on PATs, 5 for 6 on field goals with a long of 47 yards)
  • LB Rielly Krumvieda, Sr., 6-1, 270 (52 tackles, 4 for loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
  • QB Garrett Mosely, Soph., 5-11, 170 (33-64, 399 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 60 carries, 468 yards, 4 TDs)

 

Athens

 

  • RB Logan Fuller, Sr., 5-7, 210 (131 carries, 953 yards, 12 TDs)
  • WR/DB Travon Fuller, Sr., 6-2, 175 (43 carries, 322 yards, 1 TD, 8 catches 107 yards; 10 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 forced fumble; committed to Texas A&M)
  • OL Josh West, Sr., 6-3, 305
  • LB Noah Bush, Jr., 6-1, 230 (49 tackles, 5 for loss, 1 INT)
  • RB/DB Jeremy Bateman, Sr., 5-8, 145 (23 carries, 247 yards, 2 TDs; 33 tackles, 1 forced fumble)
  • QB Brandon Boyd, Sr. (9-25, 161 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 34 carries, 228 yards, 4 TDs)

 

Just the facts
  • Athens and Van have met six times since 2006. The Vandals hold a 4-2 advantage in the span.
  • The Hornets got off to a rough start with two opening losses. However, they closed non-district competition by pasting Class 5A program Hallsville in addition to wins against Rusk and Waco Robinson.
  • Van's only loss came by one point. Lindale from Class 5A edged it.
  • There will be some high-profile college talent on the field Friday.
  • Vandals running back Aphonso Thomas is committed to Nebraska. Athens receiver and defensive back Travon Fuller has been committed to Texas A&M since before the start of his junior season.
  • Aphonso Thomas currently ranks seventh in in total rushing yardage among East Texas players. Athens' Logan Fuller ranks second.
  • Last year's meeting between Athens and Van proved to be the de facto District 8-4A Division I championship game. The Vandals won the game at home, 35-32, en route to a perfect regular season. The Hornets went 4-1 within the league and finished their first 10 games with a 7-3 overall record.
  • No other district team put up more than 14 points against Van last season.
  • However, Athens was the only league team to get beyond the bi-district round of the playoffs. It advanced to the area round.
  • Athens averaged 20.6 points given up per game through its non-district schedule. Van averaged 51 points per game on offense.
Van safety Cooper Bledsoe is in the top one percent of East Texas tacklers with 77 through five games. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Athens' running game versus Van's defense.

Despite the parity in numbers between what the Hornets average on defense and what the Vandals do on offense, both teams know the game will be decided on the shoulders of Athens running back Logan Fuller and other backs running misdirection plays.

The Hornets are going to take Van's high-octane offensive element out of the game with long drives on the ground that will burn clock and force the Vandals to be more efficient on offense with limited possessions. Fuller, at 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds, is a force coming out of the Hornets' winged offensive formations. He coincidentally broke the school career rushing yardage record against Van last season and has already worked out to 953 yards and 12 touchdowns through five games this year.

To give the Vandals' offense a chance, Van's defense will have to win third and fourth down battles. The good news is the defensive unit has multiple players that can pop off on a play-to-play basis.

Athens' Travon Fuller, a Texas A&M commitment, will see a handful of touches on sweeps and should play a big role on the defensive side for the Hornets. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Middle linebacker Christian Lemus and tackle Brax Thompson have combined for 16 tackles for loss. Aaron Chitwood, Tanner Hopkins and Chase Houston all have six tackles for loss, respectively, from other spots within the defensive font. Defensive end Dacavian Rose has six sacks to boot. And none of those guys are the leading tacklers.

Junior safety Cooper Bledsoe adds insurance up top with a team-best 77 tackles. Linebacker Rielly Krumvieda also is averaging more than 10 tackles per game with 52, including 45 solo takedowns.

Athens can't afford any lost yardage plays in the game. The offense has only completed 36 percent of 25 total throws for 161 yards.

Don't be surprised if: Turnovers play a major role in the outcome. Athens can hop right back into the driver's seat of Friday's game after a punt or turnover if Van squanders any of its relatively limited possessions and sets the Hornets up with a short field. Likewise, Athens needs every point it can get to hold a Vandals offense capable of a big play at any time.

Van running back Aphonso Thomas, a Nebraska commitment, headlines an offense more reliant on its run game than in recent years. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)