ROCKWALL -- Van fell to Paris in the opening round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs Thursday, 30-23, at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium.

The look of disappointment was everywhere immediately following the game. Not only had a perfect season been spoiled, the Vandals rallied from a brutal first offensive half to take the lead with 5:54 remaining in the game only to have it stripped away by Wildcats quarterback Quez Allen's late one-man show.

"I feel bad for our kids," Van head coach Jared Moffatt said. "They played so hard all year long. You go back and look at the stat sheet tonight, we played well tonight. Even on offense. But you can't turn the ball over in big games. You can't do it, and it cost us tonight."

Matt Savis escapes Paris linebacker Jordan Williams' dive for a seven-yard gain in the second quarter of Thursday's Class 4A Division I bi-district playoff game in Rockwall. (Rob Graham,ETSN.fm)

It was a rough way for running back Matt Savis and 22 other seniors to wrap up their time in the Vandals' program. The team finished the regular season a perfect 10-0 and was ranked seventh in the Associated Press' Class 4A poll entering postseason play.

Savis turned in his best performance of the season. He recorded 191 yards and scored twice on 34 carries. The yardage Thursday was just enough to push him past the 1,000-yard mark. He finished his 2014 season with 1,042 yards on the ground and that helped him reach 4,000 yards in a four-year varsity career.

The senior back gave Van (10-1) a lead it lost midway through the fourth quarter with just under six minutes to play in the game on a six-yard run, the team's last score of the year.

Six turnovers, including four straight in the first half, and Paris quarterback Quez Allen's impressive performance were just too much for Savis and fellow running back Aphonso Thomas to overcome.

Thomas, a junior, carried the ball 14 times for 106 yards. He also scored twice.

"Matt has been a warrior for us for four years," Moffatt said. "He's been on varsity for four straight years and the last three years he's been an unbelievable running back for us. It's going to be hard coaching a team without him on it. I can't say enough about him and his effort.

"He got his shoulder banged up early and came back in and never missed a beat. What a tremendous high school running back and competitor. We're going to miss him."

Paris quarterback Quez Allen escapes Drew Buroughs's tackle for a 12-yard gain in the fourth quarter. Allen wrapped up Thursday with a game-best 199 rushing yards and the game-winning touchdown. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Paris (7-4) drove 76 yards in three and a half minutes. With 2:18 to play, Allen closed a 199-yard rushing day with a six-yard score. A two-point conversion gave the Wildcats its final margin of victory.

Van got one last shot to tie or win the game. It moved from its own 27-yard line to the 38, but two incomplete passes and a chop block penalty on third down moved the team back to its 26. The season ended on a picked off heave to the middle of nowhere.

Turnovers were a problem for the Vandals all day.

In addition to the four turnovers to close the first half and the last-ditch throw, a bad snap recovered 19 yards downfield by Paris ended a drive from the Vandals 35 to Paris' 26 when Van trailed just 22-16 in the third quarter.

"The bottom line is, you turn the ball over that many times against a good team, it's hard to win," Moffatt said. "Even with the turnovers we had a chance to win. We just didn't pull it out."

Van opened scoring in Thursday's bi-district game on Savis' one-yard dive. A missed extra point held the team at a 6-0 lead.

Back-to-back interceptions, a Savis fumble and a third interception allowed Paris to take a 22-6 advantage to the locker room. It could have been worse. The Wildcats were forced to punt once in the half and were held at midfield as time expired in the frame.

Van receiver Luke McGowan caught a pass from quarterback Peter Maddox and turned it upfield for a 13-yard gain in the third quarter. The slot receiver finished the game with two catches for 22 yards. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Moffatt's team took the idea its season was on the brink of ending to heart in the locker room.

Van got the ball to start the second half and drove 59 yards in less than two minutes on five running plays. Thomas did most of the lifting, 53 yards, and found the end zone from six yards away.

Jozef Ruiz hit a 33-yard field goal on the next possession after being set up by rover Reilly Krumvieda's interception, Van's lone forced turnover of the game.

The Vandals defense blanked Paris for the first 21 minutes of the second half. An impressive feat considering Allen imposed his will early.

Alas, the big quarterback rushed for 60 yards of a 76-yard final scoring drive and found the end zone on a six-yard carry.

"One thing about Texas high school football playoffs is the finality of it," Moffatt said. "You lose a game and your season is over. One minute you were playing and then you're not. Especially for those seniors, it feels like something has been ripped out of your chest. Something you've done for your whole life comes to a screeching halt."

Van will return 22 lettermen to the 2015 team and 20 junior varsity players were called up for the playoffs. Thomas, Krumvieda and safety Cooper Bledsoe will be the clear bright spots entering fall camp.

But it's time for the Vandals faithful to say goodbye to standouts like Savis, offensive lineman Wyatt Santos, East Texas' leading tackler Hunter Redmond, college-bound defensive end Brice Borgeson and a slew of other quality defensive linemen, a top-tier high school passer in Peter Maddox and a stable of talented receivers.

"I hope what they'll take from this is how hard they worked, what they put in and what they got out of the work," Moffatt said. "Nothing is ever easy. Overcoming adversity, playing with guys you love, playing as a team, sacrificing yourself for the good of your team and your own goals.

"Just like life, things aren't always going to go your way. There are ups and downs. This one definitely didn't go the way we wanted it to, but these kids are going to bounce back."

Matt Savis walks off the field after his final game as a Vandal. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

Paris 30, Van 23

Class 4A Division I

Bi-District Playoff

At Wilkerson-Sanders Memorial Stadium, Rockwall

Van               6         0      10     7   —     23
Paris             7        15      0      8   —     30

First quarter
VAN--Matt Savis 1 run (kick failed), 5:25
PAR--K.D. Scott 63 pass from Quez Allen (Leonel Gutierrez kick), 5:00
Second quarter
PAR--Dren Rollerson 17 pass from Allen (Gutierrez kick), 10:18
PAR--Allen 2 run (K.D. Scott run), 3:13
Third quarter
VAN--Aphonso Thomas 6 run (Jozef Ruiz kick), 10:08
VAN--Ruiz 33 field goal, 5:56
Fourth quarter
VAN--Savis 6 run (Ruiz kick), 5:54
PAR--Allen 6 run (Jordan Williams pass from Allen), 2:18

 

                                            VAN              PAR

First Downs                           23                  19
Total Yards                           366                343
Rushes-Yards                     50-276         42-238
Passing-Yards                      90                   98
Comp.-Att.-Int.                  10-22-4           10-17-1
Fumbles-Lost                       2-2                  2-0
Penalties-Yards                   6-60               8-65
Punts-Avg.                           0-0                4-30.8

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING—Van, Matt Savis 34-191, Aphonso Thomas 14-106, Peter Maddox 1-(-2), TEAM 1-(-19). Paris, Quez Allen 23-199, Dren Rollerson11-48, Drew Helbery 4-26, Ja'Kerion Brown 3-13.
PASSING—Van, Maddox 10-22-4--90. Paris, Allen 10-17-1--98
RECEIVING—Van, Kendrick Jones 5-54, Luke McGowan 2-22, Layton Myers 1-7, Andrew Platter 1-7, Savis 1-3. Paris, K.D. Scott 3-61, Rollerson 3-33, Drew Helberg 1-2, Jordan Williams 1-2, Scott 1-2.