Van Vandals (3-0)

vs.

Palestine Wildcats (3-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday
Wildcat Stadium, Palestine

Coaches

  • Van: Jared Moffatt
  • Palestine: Robby Clark
Last week

Next week
  • Van: vs. Crandall, Sept. 23
  • Palestine: at Kilgore, Sept. 23
Playmakers

Van

  • DB/RB Cooper Bledsoe, Sr., 6-0, 175 (40 tackles, 4 INTs, 7 carries, 79 yards, 2 TDs)
  • LB Sam Reeves, Sr., 5-11, 220 (31 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 PBU)
  • WR Isaiah Allred, Sr., 6-3, 195 (13 catches, 237 yards, 1 TD)
  • QB Garrett Moseley, Jr., 5-11, 175 (59 carries, 406 yards, 7 TDs, 33-of-55 passing, 539 yards, 8 TDs, 0 INTs)
  • WR/DB Connor Houston, Sr., 5-11, 175 (10 catches, 182 yards, 5 TDs)
  • WR Holden Myers, Jr., 6-1, 165 (11 catches, 207 yards, 3 TDs)
  • OL Caleb York, Sr., 5-9, 235

Palestine

  • RB Irric Deyon, Sr. (49 carries, 231 yards, 3 TDs)
  • DB Karnelius Hamilton, Sr. (16 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 PBU)
  • WR/DB Jhamonte Milton, Sr. (11 catches, 221 yards, 1 TD, 10 tackles, 2 INTs, 1 PBU, 1 FF)
  • OL/DL Jake Neal, Sr.
  • LB Edward Reese, Sr. (30 tackles, 10 for loss, 1 sack)
  • QB Claude Rodgers, Sr. (23-of-52 passing, 434 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 38 carries, 115 yards, 2 TDs)
  • LB/WR Quinn Tinley, Sr. (12 tackles, 3 for loss, 2 INTs, 1 FF, 3 catches, 59 yards)
Just the facts
  • Palestine and Van have met the past two seasons.
  • The Vandals own a 2-0 record during the span.
  • The Wildcats are 3-0 for the first time since 2013 and have already surpassed their combined win total between 2014 and 2015 of two games.
  • Both teams have faced a Class 5A opponent, and both teams won their respective contests. Van defeated Lindale last week while Palestine topped Jacksonville two weeks ago.
  • The Wildcats defeated Van's upcoming district opponent, Mabank, by a score of 21-7 to open the year.
  • Friday's game marks the end of non-district competition for both teams. Palestine will venture off into District 9-4A Division I competition and Van will move to District 8-4A Division I games.
Connor Houston leads Van in receiving touchdowns with five, but he's the team's third-leading player in receiving yardage. The whole unit could be important for the Vandals Friday. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Van's offensive approach versus Palestine's opportunistic defense.

Junior quarterback Garrett Moseley has emerged as key player and is very complicated to defend because he's as much a running threat as a passing threat. He helps dictate the pace of the game, and none of Van's first three opponents have done a very good job long-term of simply keeping him off the field by sustaining long counter drives.

The Wildcats' offense is its weaker side of the ball -- it converted four drives for scores last week while the defense got five takeaways -- so expect Palestine to get very familiar with Moseley and the supporting Van offensive cast.

Palestine defensive back Jhamonte Milton is one of three Wildcats defenders with two interceptions. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Just because the Wildcats might not control the offensive tempo as much as they want doesn't mean they're sitting ducks. They have six picks in total and have forced four fumbles through three games.

Defenses are in far better position to win games for their teams if they can take away the run.

Running for positive yardage is a higher probability than throwing for positive yardage. A completed pass has to be good enough all through the pass protection, finding the open man, delivering the ball to the target and having the target hold onto the ball.

If Palestine can consistently contain Moseley on his runs, Van doesn't really have an established second running option. Moseley has 59 carries and the next closest Vandals runner has touched the ball 12 times all season.

Senior linebacker Edward Reese will anchor any attempt at run contain for Palestine. He has a team-best 30 tackles. Eleven of those takedowns have been for loss.

Van can counter with a strong receivers unit if the Wildcats do contain the running game, but it's less likely the offense will hit its marks as frequently.

And, again, Palestine's defense has six interceptions to its name.

Don't be surprised if: Van is held off its average of 51 points per game.

As important as it is for Palestine's defense to rise to the complex challenge, the Wildcats' offense can help by working the clock while driving for scores.

Mineola, the smallest team the Vandals have played, gave Van its best game of the season by running effectively early. It took time and adjustments for Van to put the game out of reach.

Palestine running back Irric Deyon and quarterback Claude Rodgers have combined to average about 115 yards per game on the ground. That's a good place to start even before their defense tries to assert itself, especially if the Wildcats utilize the full play clock.

Garrett Moseley rides Mineola safety Aaron Stanford into the end zone for his first of five touchdowns Aug. 27 in Van's 41-21 road win against the Yellowjackets.