Jared Moffatt knew he had a talented football team going into last Friday night. But Van's first test of 2016 was a team that has rarely known defeat the past two seasons.

"Mineola was 26-2 over their last 28 games. They had 10 starters back on defense and eight on offense. That's a really good football team," Moffatt said.

But the dust settled on a 41-21 Van victory, a huge statement by the Vandals against a team that reached the Class 3A Division I state semifinals last season, the championship game the year before and had won 17 consecutive regular season games.

The win gave Van plenty of early momentum. The Vandals entered the ETSN.fm weekly top 10 poll in Class 4A, and even earned two votes in the statewide Associated Press Poll on Monday (Aug. 29).

"Even though they're a class below us, they're a quality football team with a lot of wins," Moffatt said. "Any time you start the season off with a win is huge, but when you can start with a win against a team like Mineola at their place is a really great start."

Van entered the game with several questions that needed answers, most importantly how an almost entirely new offensive line would hold up against a team like Mineola, which allowed more than 15 points just four times in 15 games in 2015.

Cooper Bledsoe helped the Van offense put up 404 yards against Mineola behind an offensive line that returned just one starter from its 2016 team.

The result was 404 total yards of offense, with 209 coming on the ground. Quarterback Garrett Moseley, who scored five touchdowns on the ground, immediately directed his praise to the line after the game. The Vandals only had one starter -- center Caleb York -- return up front this season.

“Honestly, it’s full credit to the line,” Moseley said. “That’s all I can say. The linemen are working hard, man. They’re the best guys on the field. That’s all I have to say about my night.”

Moffatt echoed the sentiment.

"Sometimes you go into a game with guys who are playing their first varsity snaps and it can be a little tricky. You never know what you are going to get sometimes until they calm down," Moffatt said. "But they played real well and allowed us to run the ball effectively."

The offensive line's effectiveness also allowed Van to counter-balance a strong night on the ground with an equally strong one through the air. Moseley and Jaxson Taylor combined for a 10-of-14 passing night for 195 yards and no interceptions. Taylor's second varsity pass was a 35-yard touchdown to Isaiah Allred 41 seconds into the second quarter that gave Van a 21-7 lead.

"The key for us this season on offense is to make plays in the passing game. The game kind of dictated that we run the ball in the second half, but I was real pleased with the passing game," Moffatt said. "We have to make plays throwing the ball and catching it, so one of the challenges is going to be how effective we are in the passing game this year."

That balance not only will be important, Moffatt said, against this week's opponent in Princeton -- a 42-27 winner over perennial power Celina last Friday -- but looking ahead to a tough District 8-4A Division I.

"Our schedule doesn't get any easier. But when you play tough and talented teams, they usually find your weaknesses and show you what you need to work on," Moffatt said. "And fortunately we came out with a win the other night, but we still have plenty to work on. The key thing at this point and time is that you're getting better every week for when district starts."