CLASS 4A DIVISION I
Bi-District Playoff Game

Van Vandals (6-4)

vs.

Liberty-Eylau Leopards (9-1)

7 p.m. Thursday

Pine Tree's Pirate Stadium, Longview

Coaches
  • Van: Jared Moffatt
  • Liberty-Eylau: Steve Wells
Last week
  • Van: lost to Kaufman, 42-30
  • Liberty-Eylau: def. Princeton, 46-21
Next week
  • Winner plays Sanger-Springtown winner, area round

Playmakers

Van

  • RB Aphonso Thomas, Sr., 6-0, 190 (189 carries, 1,400 yards, 19 TD, committed to Nebraska)
  • QB Garrett Mosely, Soph., 5-11, 170 (82-149, 1,160 yards, 11 TDs, 4 INTs, 128 carries, 846 yards, 9 TDs)
  • OL Clay Gandy, Sr.
  • DB Cooper Bledsoe, Jr., 6-0, 165 (145 tackles, 3 for loss, 1 sack)
  • LB Rielly Krumvieda, Sr., 6-1, 180 (113 tackles, 7 for loss, 4 sacks, 3 INTs)
  • K Jozef Ruiz, Sr., 5-8, 165
  • LB Sam Reeves, Jr., 5-11, 215 (123 tackles, 11 for loss, 3 forced fumbles)

Liberty-Eylau

 

  • ATH Ke’Mon Freeman, Sr., 6-0, 205 (151-242, 2,597 yards, 19 TDs, 5 INTs, 152 carries, 1,233 yards 19 TDs)
  • DL Lagaryonn Carson, Jr., 6-5, 255 (Committed to Texas)
  • DB Andre Wiley Jr., Sr., 5-10, 180 (6 FBS offers)
  • WR/DB Thurman Morbley, Sr., 6-0, 166 (42 catches, 982 yards, 9 TDs)
  • WR Garyco Witcher, Sr., (36 catches, 590 yards, 3 TDs)
  • RB/LB Lamont Byrd, Sr., 5-9, 180 (145 carries, 1,040 yards, 19 TDs)
  • LB Demarcus Pegue II, Sr., 5-10, 217
  • OL Franklin Smith II, Jr., 6-4, 279

 

Just the facts
  • Liberty-Eylau finished the regular season as the champion of District 7-4A Division II.
  • Van is the fourth-place team from District 8-4A Division II.
  • Both teams made the postseason last year. The Leopards advanced to the regional championship game while the Vandals fell in the bi-district round despite a perfect 10-0 regular season.
  • Liberty-Eylau and Van last met for a non-district game in 2013, a 27-17 Leopards win.
  • Colleges will be represented in Thursday's meeting.
  • Vandals running back Aphonso Thomas is committed to Nebraska.
  • Liberty-Eylau junior defensive end Lagaryonn Carson is committed to Texas, while safety Andre Wiley Jr, quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman and receiver Thurman Morbley are uncommitted prospects with scholarship invitations.
  • With Aphonso Thomas, Van retooled its offense from an explosive passing team last season to a more run dependent unit this year. Sophomore quarterback Garrett Mosely supplements Thomas as a dual-threat runner.
  • The Leopards are more versatile. Freeman has passed for 2,597 yards while running for a team-best 1,233 yards. Running back Lamont Byrd also is a 1,000-yard rusher.
  • Liberty-Eylau receiver Thurman Morbley is on pace to break 1,000 yards receiving in the playoff game. He needs 18 yards.
  • The Leopards are on a nine-game winning streak. Their only loss was on opening night by five points to a still-undefeated Gilmer team.
Van quarterback Garrett Mosely is the team's second-leadin runner with more than 800 yards this season. (Michael Alfaro, ETSN.fm)

Key matchup: Van's balanced offense versus Liberty-Eylau's defense.

The Leopards are big favorites in this game by nature of their record and slew of athletes, but the Vandals actually match up well against the state championship hopefuls. Senior running back Aphonso Thomas -- a Nebraska commitment -- and sophomore quarterback Garrett Mosely hold the key to a potential upset.

Last season, Van had one of the area's best offenses on the Class 4A Division I level with five standout receivers and another running back that put up nearly identical numbers to Thomas. The team has been much more reliant on the run this season. Thomas has 118 more yards all of Van's quarterbacks combined -- 1,282 yards in the passing game.

That's a good stat for this game. Running teams are more capable of dictating the pace of play than teams dependent on their passing games.

Liberty-Eylau counters offensively with senior quarterback Ke'Mon Freeman. He throws for more than 200 yards per game and runs for another 100 yards. That's just the starting point for the Leopards' offense.

Van should be able to limit the Leopards' offensive possessions a bit by using Thomas and Mosely on the ground. They're big play threats, but they normally pound the ball inside for positive yardage and keep the clock moving. If the duo can do it in this game, they'll limit the damage Freeman and company can do in this game.

Junior Liberty-Eylau defensive tackle Lagaryonn Carson, a Texas commitment, could be a big problem for Van on the edge. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

But the Leopards aren't a one-trick pony. They're a state championship caliber team, supported by a defensive unit as strong as the offense.

There is at least one playmaker at each level of the defense. Senior safety Andre Wiley Jr. is one of the hardest hitters in the state up top, junior defensive end Lagaryonn Carson is a blue chip prospect and it wouldn't surprise anyone if senior linebacker Demarcus Pegue II picks up some late college football opportunities.

No team has scored more than 29 points against the unit in the past five games. Liberty-Eylau's margin of victory is 221-94 through the span.

The Vandals' mountain to climb is steep, but they have the weapons to minimize the Leopards' offensive damage. Furthermore, Van's defense has its own strengths at each position. Particularly rushing the passer and containing the run.

Don't be surprised if: The playoff game comes down to the fourth quarter. Liberty-Eylau should have its hands full defending Thomas and Mosely play after play. There is potential for the Vandals to wear out out the opposing defense while adding in an adequate passing game in support of the effort. Van will have to play, by far, its best defensive game of the season, but this isn't the best matchup the Leopards could have asked for in the first round.

Van running back Aphonso Thomas. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)