VAN – All Van head coach Jared Moffatt could do was shake his head and smile.

His team had just played its worst game of the season on offense, yet his players were celebrating a 21-20 win over Henderson in Friday night’s regular-season finale at Van Memorial Stadium.

“I can’t say enough about how hard our kids played,” Moffatt said. “We just continued to fight throughout all four quarters, and I’m still amazed we just won that game. I’ll have to watch the film to figure out how.”

The Vandals (8-2, 4-1) clinched the No. 2 seed from District 10-4A Division I, and will face Athens (5-4) in the bi-district round of the playoffs next week.

Van scored all three of its touchdowns off of Henderson (6-4, 3-2) miscues, as the Vandals benefitted from five takeaways on the night.

“Our defense played unbelievable tonight,” Moffatt said. “They just flew to the football, made tackles. We picked a fumble up and ran it back, we got (another fumble), and we converted them into points, which was huge.”

Van scored the game-winner on an Elijah Rankine's 14-yard touchdown run with 7:32 remaining, one play after Reeve Hughes recovered Henderson’s second fumble of the night.

Henderson went three-and-out on its next two series, and finished with just 155 yards of total offense for the game. Van was even more futile, managing only 138.

“That’s an amazing win for our kids and our team,” Moffatt said. “Not much went right on offense, a lot went terrible. You’ve got to give (Henderson) credit, they’re great on defense.”

Van was shut out in the first half, trailing Henderson 10-0 to begin the third quarter.

But Cole Catlin returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown to put the Vandals on the board, and following a Henderson muff on the ensuing kickoff, Van took a 14-10 lead on Jayton Moffatt’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Hoss Brewer.

“Our defense has played really good all year long, and we knew that was gonna be the strength of our team, that’s where we had the most starters coming back,” Moffatt said. “And they’ve carried us at times, and there’s no doubt they carried us tonight.”

Henderson was stopped on its next possession, but its punt was downed inside the 1-yard line, and the Lions cut the deficit to 14-12 when Van was called for holding in the end zone.

Lions senior Keshoyn Alexander returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards, and on the next play, Sevastian De Leon connected with Pedro Garza for a 15-yard touchdown. De Leon hit Caleb Medford for the two-point conversion, giving Henderson a 20-14 lead less than six minutes into the third quarter.

Henderson took the game’s opening possession down the field, but had to settle for Axel Romero’s 47-yard field goal midway through the opening quarter.

Garza’s 45-yard pick-six pushed the Lions’ lead to 10-0 with four seconds to play in the period.

Henderson will face Crandall in the first round next week, while Van is hopeful of a deep playoff run.

“The playoffs are always challenging in Texas,” Moffatt said. “You’re gonna play a great team week-in and week-out. Right now, we’re gonna celebrate this win. We’re gonna celebrate an 8-2 season and a 4-1 district finish in one of the toughest districts in the state of Texas. I couldn’t be prouder of this team and this group of seniors, and what they’ve accomplished this year.”

Van 21, Henderson 20

At Van Memorial Stadium

Henderson         10      0    10      0    –    20
Van                      0      0    14      7    –    21

First Quarter
HEN—FG Axel Romero 47, 6:04.
HEN—Pedro Garza 45 interception return (Romero kick), :04.
Third Quarter
VAN—Cole Catlin 27 fumble return (Calen McKinney kick), 9:44.
VAN—Hoss Brewer 21 pass from Jayton Moffatt (McKinney kick), 8:39.
HEN—Safety, Van holding penalty in end zone, 6:47.
HEN—Garza 15 pass from Sevastian De Leon (Caleb Medford pass from De Leon), 6:21.
Fourth Quarter
VAN—Elijah Rankine 14 run (McKinney kick), 7:32.

                                         HEN                  VAN
First Downs                             9                       8
Total Yards                           155                   138
Rushes-Yards                    39-79               27-73
Passing Yards                         76                    65
Comp.-Att.-Int.                 8-15-2             6-20-2
Punts-Avg.                        6-33.7             9-38.3
Fumbles-Lost                         2-2                 0-0
Penalties-Yards                     5-25                4-16

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING—Henderson, Eli Jones 13-39, Kevin Fields 13-23, Caleb Medford 5-13, Sevastian De Leon 7-9, Pedro Garza 1-(-5). Van, Elijah Rankine 18-64, Jayton Moffatt 6-10, Alex Harris 1-3, Team 2-(-4).
PASSING—Henderson, De Leon 8-14-2—76, Medford 0-1-0—0. Van, Moffatt 6-19-2—65, Liam Nielson 0-1-1—0.
RECEIVING—Henderson, Medford 3-38, Keuntaye Dunham 2-17, Jy Fuller 1-17, Garza 1-2, Kourtland Jackson 1-2. Van, Ethan Robinson 4-40, Hoss Brewer 1-21, Bray Doring 1-4.