POTTSBORO — Rhett Gallagher finished with 112 yards through the air and three touchdowns passes as the Van Alstyne Panthers beat the Pottsboro Cardinals, 28-20, in District 5-3A (I) play on Friday to force a tie in second-place.


The victory also clinched a playoff spot for Van Alstyne (7-2, 3-1), which could earn a share of the district title with a win against Pilot Point in the final combined with Pottsboro (6-3, 3-1) bouncing back and beating first-place Whitesboro.


The Cardinals started the scoring with a two-yard run by Hunter Watson.


The Panthers responded on their next possession, capitalizing on a muffed punt which set them up at the Cardinals 18-yard line. Gallagher completed a pass to Drelin Davis for the touchdown, followed by a successful two-point conversion.


Watson, who finished with 29 carries for 115 yards, put Pottsboro ahead once again on a one-yard run early in the second quarter.


But Gallagher connected with Chase Wilson for a 16-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing possession and the score was tied at 14 at the half.


The Van Alstyne defense came out on a mission in the third quarter, sacking Watson twice and forcing three punts. The Panthers took advantage and put together a 12-play, 69-yard drive that resulted in Justin Barnes leaping over the pile from the one with 6:34 left to play in the quarter.


Barnes, who had 12 carries for 51 yards, scored again with 1:55 left to play, breaking tackles and following blocks on his six-yard run.


Watson scored on a keeper over the goal line with 55 seconds left to play that fashioned the final margin. Van Alstyne covered the onside kick to secure the victory.