Van Ends Four-Year Drought + Reaches Area Round With Win Against Princeton
ROYSE CITY -- Exhale. It happened. Van survived the first round of the Class 4A Division I playoffs for the first time in four years.
It wasn't easy, in fact it was initially frustrating, but the Vandals ultimately broke free of the same Princeton team they shocked and awed earlier this year for a 41-14 postseason win Thursday at Royse City ISD Stadium.
"Everybody's talking this week," quarterback Garrett Moseley said. "'Ah, Van always goes out in the first round.' They make jokes like, 'Van always has the good regular season, but they come out in the playoffs and lose in the first round.' I think that might have had something to do with us struggling, but once we got a score we started to roll."
The Vandals (10-1) built a 42-7 halftime lead on Princeton in the two teams' Sept. 2 meeting toward a 56-28 victory in non-district play.
Things were tougher this time around.
Princeton (6-5) had film of itself playing the top-seeded team from District 8-4A Division I and spent time in practice simply correcting the mistakes it made in the first meeting.
The opposing team was more confident. And played like it toward a 0-0 draw near the midway mark of the second quarter.
Rewind for a second.
Van had a team in 2014 one game better than the current model. It went 10-0 in the regular season compared to 9-1, torched its district mates and breezed into a one versus four-seed playoff game on a Thursday about a dozen miles west of Royse City.
That 2014 team let their playoff opponent stay close and got eliminated by a touchdown. It brought the growing skid into the light after two seasons of simply playing better teams, which was once again the case last year.
Back to this season.
There was a clear comparison to where Thursday's game against Princeton was drifting after Van punted and fumbled its first two posessions away.
The Vandals' defense came up with an interception by Zeke Betancourt and a three-and-out to keep it deadlocked in the first quarter.
More of the same early in the second period. Van punted its third drive away and Princeton punted back.
Tre Lovett finally pulled fans out of the fog of 2014 by hauling in a 31-yard touchdown pass from Moseley with 6:19 left before halftime.
Lovett had to have been the signal-caller's final read. The play took forever to develop, the receiver slowly drifting over from Van's sideline to nearly Princeton's sideline before making the catch.
It was the last time things moved slow for Van's offense in meaningful time.
Moseley drove the team 65 yards in three minutes his next time out for a late-half score, and the defense completed a frame in which it allowed just 40 yards and four Princeton first downs.
Isaiah Allred caught a 33-yard touchdown to end Van's first possession of the second half, Moseley broke an 82-yard run the next offensive play and special running back Cooper Bledsoe, a full-time safety, gave the team a 28-0 lead from three yards out seconds later.
"This group, I don't know, they may be unique," head coach Jared Moffatt said. "I don't know the word, but they enjoy playing. Whether we've had teams we think we should beat, I've never really been worried about how hard they're going to play. They haven't had a letdown in effort."
A fumble near the wrong end zone let Princeton make it a 28-7 game on Jacob Purdon's 1-yard dive with no time left in the third quarter.
Connor Houston's 8-yard sweep upped the lead back to 28 points the next drive. Reid Taylor scored the final trip up the field after Princeton got its second score of the night.
There was no letdown this time.
"Our main focus this week was getting out of the first round," Allred, who caught for a team-best 90 yards on six receptions, said. "Van hasn't gotten past it in a long time. Princeton is a great team. It took a lot of preparation. It ended up being a great game. One we ultimately executed well."
Moseley generated 355 yards of total offense. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 153 yards and carried the ball 23 times for 202 yards.
Van's defense ended up holding Princeton to 229 yards. Thirty-two of those yards came in the game's final 30 seconds against soft coverage.
D.J. Dutton recorded a second-half interception to set up Thomas' scoring run. Dutton would have scored himself from 47 yards if it had not been for a block in the back penalty.
The Vandals now await the winner of today's game between Irving Ranchview and Mineral Wells in the area round.
"We'll go watch them tomorrow," Moffatt said. "I know very little about them now. I'm just glad we'll only be playing one of them."
Van 41, Princeton 14
Class 4A Division I Bi-District Playoff Game
At Royse City ISD Stadium, Royse City
Van 0 14 14 13 -- 41
Princeton 0 0 7 7 -- 14
VAN--Tre Lovett 31 pass from Garrett Moseley (Alex Vasquez kick), 6:19
VAN--Moseley 1 run (Vasquez kick), :46
VAN--Isaiah Allred 33 pass from Moseley (Vasquez kick), 6:29
VAN--Cooper Bledsoe 3 run (Vasquez kick), 3:33
PRI--Jacob Purdon 1 run (Julio Vazquez kick), :00
VAN--Connor Houston 8 run (Vasquez kick), 7:39
PRI--Alex Flores 15 pass from Brandon Strickland (Vazquez kick), 6:10
VAN--Reid Thomas 1 run (kick failed), :34
First Downs 20 16
Total Yards 441 229
Rushes-Yards 41-288 27-64
Passing Yards 153 165
Comp.-Att.-Int. 12-16-0 16-29-2
Punts-Avg. 2-28.5 5-40.2
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 3-0
Penalties-Yards 11-89 7-70
RUSHING--Van, Garrett Moseley 23-202, Reid Thomas 11-60, Cooper Bledsoe 5-10, Connor Houston 2-16. Princeton, Jacob Purdon 18-70, Alex Flores 4-6, Tristan Gee 1-3, Jalaydon Hill 1-0, Phillip Mayfield 1-(-3), Brandon Strickland 2-(-12).
PASSING--Van, Moseley 12-16-0--153. Princeton, Strickland 14-24-1--121, Purdon 2-4-1--44, Gee 0-1-0--0.
RECEIVING--Van, Isaiah Allred 6-90, Tre Lovett 1-31, Houston 4-19, Holden Myers 1-13. Princeton, Kai Brinkerhoff 8-117, Maika Brinkerhoff 3-29, Flores 1-15, Stevan Molina 3-9, Strickland 1-(-5) .