MESQUITE — Elijah Rankine ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns as Van rolled to a 49-13 win over Athens in Class 4A Division I bi-district action Thursday night at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.

Van (9-2) went into halftime with a 21-13 lead, but outscored Athens 28-0 in the second half, including three fourth-quarter touchdowns.

The Vandals' offense compiled 329 yards, but the defense played a large role in Thursday’s victory.

Van had four takeaways — an interception by Ridge Preston and three fumble recoveries.

One of the fumbles was recovered by Emillio Herrera in the first quarter, and he returned the ball 68 yards to give Van a 14-0 lead after Rankine’s 5-yard touchdown run started the scoring.

The Hornets (5-5) had a 7-yard touchdown pass from Chase Friedrich to Rowdy Godwin and a 3-yard scoring run by Nathan Sims in the second quarter, but the Vandals added a 10-yard touchdown run from quarterback Jayton Moffatt to take the 21-13 halftime lead.

Liam Nielson threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Robinson in the third quarter, and the Vandals added three scores on the ground in the fourth quarter, including Rankine’s second.

Sims had 122 yards on the ground for Athens, which rushed for 195 yards on 44 attempts.

Van will play Houston North Forest or Splendora in the area round of the playoffs next week.

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