Van Seniors Hope Next Team Will Build On Fourth-Round Loss To Kennedale
FRISCO -- Van's feel-good season came to an end Friday.
The good times stopped in an upscale Dallas suburb with Christmas-lit boulevards in every direction. But what a journey to get there, in the name of pursuing the school's first state championship since 1979.
Kennedale won the Region II championship game, 34-28, and propelled itself into the Class 4A Division I state semifinals. Van has the winter break to look forward to now that it has completed what head coach Jared Moffatt hopes was not a once-in-a-generation season.
"I can't say enough about this senior class," Moffatt said near the 50-yard line of the Ford Center at The Star, the focal point of a recently completed $1.5 billion day-to-day home for the Dallas Cowboys in Frisco. "What they have done, one of the things we set out for with this football team, was to move from being a perennial playoff qualifier to a perennial playoff contender. This group has done that."
Kennedale (11-3) finally got out of Region II after years of postseason disappointments.
The other perennials didn't stop it this time. The brand new schools with promising futures in football didn't get it either. Nor did a flavor of the year, which is what Van (12-2) was becoming more and more of with three playoff wins on the heels of a 9-1 regular season.
Yet it had been the Vandals' game to win. Moffatt's team owned a 21-7 lead at halftime thanks to a career night from senior receiver Isaiah Allred.
The 6-foot-3 wideout commanded so much respect from Kennedale that it put Baron Browning, an tall outside linebacker that committed to Ohio State the day before the game, at cornerback to defend him. It didn't work out as well as intended.
Allred, currently a lower-level Division I prospect, burned the out-of-position blue chip for 103 yards in the first half. He scored once with his five receptions in the frame on a 22-yard post pattern and put an exclamation point on 21 consecutive points -- a rally back from a 7-0 first-quarter deficit.
Browning did, however, record a 30-yard pick six that got called back for holding with his team already in the lead. Junior cornerback Zeke Betancourt's interception in the back corner of the end zone a few plays later offset that pick and kept the deficit manageable.
Betancourt was part of a defense that allowed seven first-half yards after giving up an opening five-play and 56-yard scoring drive.
With Allred gradually establishing dominance in the head-to-head battle with Browning, Kennedale somewhat allowed itself to get nickled and dimed by fellow senior receiver Connor Houston.
When those two receivers couldn't get open, junior quarterback Garrett Moseley scrambled for short gains against an extremely tough front. He scored twice in the first half with an improvised run of eight yards and a 2-yard draw toward a net of 17 yards.
Kennedale did some soul searching in the locker room and dominated the game in the second half. Running back D.J. Kirvin, who scored all five touchdowns for his team, set the tone with a 58-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.
Kirvin doubled Kennedale's offense for the game on the first drive of the second act.
Defensively, the front seven's pressure held Van to one second-half first down until Kennedale established a two-possession lead inside the game's final three minutes. Moseley's net of 17 rushing yards through the first half fell to 15 yards for the contest, and Allred only got targeted twice more for 14 yards as the signal-caller ran for his life.
Van still led, 21-13, into the fourth quarter. A 5-yard Kirvin run two plays into the final period and a two-point conversion run by kicker Aaron Rinehart tied the game.
The Vandals went three-and-out for a second time in the half, their punt got partially blocked and landed at the wrong 37-yard line. Kirvin gave Kennedale the lead moments later.
Van went three-and-out again and Kennedale went up 34-21 ahead of a blocked point after kick with 2:55 left in the game.
Moseley drove the Vandals offense from their own 15-yard line to Kennedale's 38 before sustaining a minor injury. Backup quarterback Jaxon Taylor threw a 12-yard touchdown to Bray Doring two plays later with 18 seconds left, but the ensuing onside kick attempt did not go 10 yards and possession was awarded to Kennedale.
"This season has been a blessing," Houston, who had a team-second best 58 receiving yards before Doring caught him on the final drive, said. "I've made a lot of lifelong friends at Van that I'll never forget. This community has been behind us since the beginning. I hope Kennedale takes it all the way. That's a great football team. But it's a band of brothers out there in Van, Texas."
Houston then walked back toward the locker room. Upbeat music continued to be pumped through the Ford Center's speakers, gently suggesting to the either dejected or jubilant fans that it was time to go into the night.
There was time for only one last look before coming back out to a dark and sterile stadium.
Concession stand debris the fans left behind waiting to be swept away by an employed cleaning crew instead of youth group volunteers. A digital banner someone with the Cowboys had made with the Kennedale and the Vandals' logos still waving on a crystal clear jumbotron.
Just the fact today's best team in the NFL practices on this field. The fact it's mostly Dallas area Class 6A and Class 5A teams that get to play at Frisco's new jewel in the Cowboys' after hours.
To get to the Ford Center was not nothing.
"It's been a good season," Allred said. "I love my team. I love the fan base. We have the best fans there are. We almost filled up this stadium. I can't thank Van enough. I moved here my freshman year. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I don't regret it at all."
Kennedale 34, Van 28
Class 4A Division I, Region II Championship Game
At Ford Center at The Star, Frisco
Van 0 21 0 7 -- 28
Kennedale 7 0 6 20 -- 34
KEN--DJ Kirvin 5 run (Aaron Rinehart kick), 8:35
VAN--Garrett Moseley 8 run (Alex Vasquez kick), 10:48
VAN--Moseley 2 run (Vasquez kick), 6:49
VAN--Isaiah Allred 22 pass from Moseley (Vasquez kick), :24
KEN--Kirvin 6 run (kick failed), 9:13
KEN--Kirvin 5 run (Rinehart run), 11:27
KEN--Kirvin 10 run (Rinehart kick), 9:43
KEN--Kirvin 9 run (kick blocked), 2:55
VAN--Bray Doring 12 pass from Jaxon Taylor (Vasquez kick), :18
First Downs 16 13
Total Yards 288 265
Rushes-Yards 19-37 47-265
Passing Yards 251 0
Comp.-Att.-Int. 19-34-1 0-1-1
Punts-Avg. 6-26.3 3-37.3
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 2-0
Penalties-Yards 5-50 7-55
RUSHING--Van, Cooper Bledsoe 3-22, Garrett Moseley 15-15. Kennedale, D.J. Kirvin 22-162, Braelin Brown 15-65, David Roper 3-21, Evan Jowers 7-17.
PASSING--Van, Moseley 17-31-1--213, Jaxon Taylor 2-2-0--38. Kennedale, Jowers 0-1-1--0.
RECEIVING--Van, Isaiah Allred 7-117, Bray Doring 5-76, Connor Houston 7-58.