PRINCETON — The Van Alstyne Panthers went up against the Sunnyvale Raiders for the third straight year to open the playoffs and Sunnyvale came away with a third victory in the match-up, 35-19, in a Class 3A Division I Region II bi-district game on Friday night.
The Panthers (8-3) opened the game hoping to take an early lead but Sunnyvale’s Kenderick Hill denied them as he picked off a Rhett Gallagher pass intended for Dylan Porter. Hill’s return set up the Raiders (7-4) on the one-yard line for their first possession of the game.
Chance Work bulldozed in the end zone for a touchdown.
Van Alstyne didn’t respond until its third drive, where Justin Barnes had a bruising 36-yard run, putting the Panthers at the 12-yard line. Rhett Gallagher picked up those 12 yards and made the score, 7-6, after a failed two-point conversion.
Sunnyvale’s Tripp McAda would respond on the Raiders’ next drive with a 37 -yard run, a 10-yard pass to Trevor Tutle, and two more 12-yard runs. After a holding call on the Van Alstyne defense, a 9-yard run by McAda gave the Raiders a 14-6 lead.
Right near the end of the first quarter, Barnes had a nine-yard touchdown run but the conversion failed and Van Alstyne was down 14-12.
Sunnyvale used a steady drive at the beginning of the second quarter, ending in a one-yard Work touchdown, and it was 21-12 with 9:22 left in the half and it stay that way going into the third quarter.
Van Alstyne was doing a lot of its work behind the offensive line.
“We got lucky and only lost one starter last year, so we knew coming into this season they would be great and they’ve gotten the job done all year,” Van Alstyne head coach Mikeal Miller said.
The Panthers came out in the third quarter determined. After a stale mate to begin the half, both defenses shined.
On their ninth drive of game, the Panthers capitalized on a Sunnyvale fumble at the 27-yard line. Barnes barrelled into the end zone on a one-yard run and the deficit was down to just two points with 1:27 left in the quarter.
However, it was as close as Van Alstyne would get.
“We struggled to get anything going offensively on a consistent basis,” Miller said. “We had some penalties that cost us, its hard to execute when you aren’t being consistent.”
The Raiders returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown by Patrick Jones 11 seconds later and it was back to a two-possession game.
Sunnyvale put the game away with a final score on Work’s two-yard TD run with 2:46 left to play.
“I’m proud of them,” Miller said. “At the end of the day its a game. We learned a lot of life lessons and had a lot of fun this season. I hate the way it ended, especially for our seniors. I just hope everyone enjoyed this year; I know I did.”