Van Dominates Kaufman + Caps Perfect Regular Season With District 8-4A D-I Crown
VAN -- Beyond the first breath, after Northwestern State commitment Brice Borgeson and the key linebacker Hunter Redmond, you might hear the name Ben Buchanan.
The senior defensive end entered Friday's game tied for second place on the ETSN.fm sacks leader board with nine and is part of a large tie for fourth place in forced fumbles with three.
"I've known him since he was in the seventh grade," Van head coach Jared Moffatt said. "I can say I'm real comfortable with him watching over things. He's a great kid."
Moffatt wasn't talking about Buchanan playing his defensive end role on an undefeated Vandal football team.
Between the last bell and the kickoff of an ultimate win against Kaufman, the senior signed up with the National Guard.
Back on campus, Buchanan and Van's defense held Kaufman off the board en route to a 31-0 victory. The win clinched the District 8-4A Division I championship, secured a bracket position designed for the Vandals to succeed and put the final touch on the school's sixth perfect regular season ever.
Buchanan and company forced three turnovers on downs, two punts and recovered a fumble.
Kaufman (4-6, 3-2) never reached the red zone.
"I'm going to remember every bit of this day," Buchanan said. "It's going to be awesome. I can't wait to look back on it and just smile. The National Guard, I'm really excited that I got in. Then we got the win tonight, an unbelievable win. I can't believe we're still undefeated and only the sixth team in Van history to do that."
Van (10-0, 5-0) played for eons on defense. Kaufman dominated time of possession in large part because the Vandals' offense scored touchdowns on its first two plays of the second half.
Four of the game's five scoring drives took less than three minutes to complete.
"We executed extremely well on offense," quarterback Peter Maddox said. "The running backs found the holes and the offensive line blocked their tails off all night. We threw and caught when we needed to and made some big plays through the passing game that were really key."
Van's opening drive was set back by a 15-yard chop block penalty and a holding call the next play to set up a first-and-35 at the Kaufman 40-yard line. Aphonso Thomas set Maddox up for success with a 20-yard run on second down and the quarterback connected with Andrew Platter for a 17-yard catch on third-and-15 at the 20.
Thomas punched it in the next play.
Kaufman's best drive of the night was its first.
The Lions moved the ball from their own 31 to Van's 23 with eight running plays and a 12-yard pass. The offensive backs pounded the front seven every which way for 4.4 yards per carry. Then the team threw four straight incomplete passes.
Kaufman's final field position receded each drive in the first half. The Van 23 to the 42 and back to the Lions' 38.
Senior running back Matt Savis scored on a one-yard carry and Luke McGowan's 36-yard punt return, one step shy of a touchdown, set up Jozef Ruiz's 23-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead at the break.
Kaufman's first two drives of the second half ended on its own side of the field.
Thomas scored from nine yards out after the Vandals stopped the Lions and a bad snap on a punt attempt set up Van with a first-and-goal. Maddox connected with Layton Myers on a 45-yard touchdown pass immediately following a failed fake punt run up the middle minutes later.
Cornerback Xavier Sherman's fumble recovery at the Van 28 late in the third quarter ended with a 18-yard drive and a McGowan punt back inside Kaufman's 10.
The Lions had the ball for nine minutes in the fourth quarter and came up with nothing.
Van was penalized twice on close pass interference calls. Two more pass interferences probably saved yardage beyond the 15-yard consequence.
"The best part about our defense is all 11 of us have been working for two years together now," Redmond, East Texas' leading tackler, said. "We really have a good team chemistry and we always play sound. Even if we miss tackles, we're playing at 110 percent.
"They can nickel and dime us, penalties hurt us a little, but my defense has done more than I've expected all year. It's been amazing to play for this team."
Van's only good option is to finish the year 16-0 with a Class 4A Division I state championship. It will begin its playoff run next week against Paris at a time, specific date and location to be coordinated between the two schools.
Kaufman, like the Vandals, had clinched a general playoff spot before Friday's game. It will play Princeton on Nov. 14 at Forney's City Bank Stadium.
"This game was big because it determined our role in the playoffs," Moffatt said. "Of course, at the same time, it looks like we're going to play the Paris Wildcats in the first round. Those guys are no slouches. They're talented every year. We're 10-0 and win the district and line up against Paris in the first round.
"It is what it is. We're in the playoffs and will line up against whoever is across from us. We'll see if we can keep the season going."
Van 31, Kaufman 0
At Van Memorial Stadium, Van
Kaufman 0 0 0 0 — 0
Van 7 10 14 0 — 31
VAN--Aphonso Thomas 2 run (Jozef Ruiz kick); 6:15
VAN--Matt Savis 1 run (Ruiz kick); 7:29
VAN--Ruiz 23 field goal; :12
VAN--Thomas 9 run (Ruiz kick); 10:15
VAN--Layton Myers 45 pass from Peter Maddox (Ruiz kick), 8:36
First Downs 21 13
Total Yards 257 286
Rushes-Yards 41-140 31-193
Passing-Yards 117 116
Comp.-Att.-Int. 9-26-0 6-12-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 4-25 7-90
Punts-Avg. 2-31.5 2-40.5
RUSHING—Kaufman, Desmond Williams 28-90, Jackson Fritz 7-28, Tristan Townley 5-20, Jefferson Fritz 1-2. Van, Matt Savis 16-80, Aphonso Thomas 8-48, Deundre Johnson 5-42, Peter Maddox 2-23.
PASSING—Kaufman, Jefferson Fritz 9-26-0--117. Van, Maddox 6-12-0--116
RECEIVING—Kaufman, Myron Wrenn 2-49, Jefferson Fritz 5-44, Ryan Gentzel 1-12, Desmond Williams 1-12. Van, Layton Myers 3-59, Kendrick Jones 1-37, Andrew Platter 2-10.