ANNA — When the lights went out right after the Van Alstyne Panthers went down by three touchdowns late in the second quarter, it seemed like a fitting metaphor for the situation.
The match-up against the Anna Coyotes was starting to slip away and the sign of a nearly half-hour delay until the power could be restored was hard to miss.
But the electricity in the building was at its peak in the final minute when Van Alstyne’s frantic comeback attempt came up just short. Stanley Bardere intercepted a two-point conversion and Brandon Adams recovered the ensuing onside kick to preserve Anna’s 38-36 victory over the Panthers in non-district action.
Gavin Montgomery threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns and ran 30 times for 174 yards and three TDs and Dakota Howard finished with three catches for 133 yards and two scores for Van Alstyne (1-2), which was down by two scores with five minutes to go.
"We emptied our tank and were able to put us in position to win," Van Alstyne head coach Mikeal Miller said. "We told them to just see what happens and we were able to get one play away."
Zachareus Gentry, who was taking over at QB for the first time this season, threw for 208 yards and two TDs and also ran for a score, Davonte Davis totaled 107 yards on 18 carries, Jonathan Brown finished with six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown and Jambres Dubar had a pair of rushing touchdowns for Anna (1-2), which has won five straight against the Panthers.
"Anna has some guys that can be explosive," Miller said. "We had to limit those big plays."
Montgomery scored on a two-yard run with 1:32 to go to set up the tying two-point conversion. He went to his right with the pass and the area got flooded with bodies as Bardere came up with the pick in the end zone.
VA’s last-gasp attempt came when it forced Anna to punt and the Panthers took over at their 14-yard line with 16 seconds left. But with no timeouts, the comeback ended well short of midfield.
After the Coyotes went up 35-16 on Dubar’s four-yard TD run with 9:25 left in the game, the Panthers responded as Montgomery scored on a two-yard keeper that was set up by a 48-yard catch from Howard at the Anna three.
Anna had a chance to go back up by three scores when it had first-and-goal at the nine-yard line. But the Coyotes settled for a 26-yard field goal from Justin Amon — a kick that counted after he missed from 31 yards but VA committed a pair of penalties to set up a second try.
Three plays later Howard got behind everyone on the right side for a 59-yard touchdown and it was a one-score game. And when Conner Loftice recovered the onside kick, the Panthers had plenty of time to try and force OT.
The delay came right after Anna had taken a 28-7 advantage with 3:08 remaining in the second quarter. Amon had just lined up to boot the kickoff when the four main stadium lights went out. The scoreboard and big video board at opposite end zones and the lights in the press box remained on during the wait. One light did not come back on but the game resumed, then stopped again for a regular half-time. But a switch was flipped on more than just the circuit breaker.
"As many kids as we have going both ways it might have helped us rest," Miller said.
VA forced a pair of three-and-outs by Anna in the third quarter and going into the final 12 minutes the Panthers trimmed the deficit to 28-16 when Montgomery broke free down the right sideline on a 51-yard TD run with eight seconds on the clock and helped spur things along.
Van Alstyne did manage to get something out of the only first-half drive following the delay when Aaron Beckham kicked a 28-yard field goal as the half expired and it was a 28-10 margin.
The Coyotes had built their 28-7 lead after scoring on three straight drives.
Anna’s first touchdown of the frame came just seconds in when Brown caught a seven-yard slant pass on the right side to finish off a five-plus minute drive.
The Panthers were putting together a response but Brown came up with a fumble recovery at midfield. He was responsible for another big turning point — a 29-yard catch to the two-yard line on fourth-and-four that set up Dubar’s TD run on the next snap for a 21-7 advanatge with 7:26 to go in the quarter.
The Panthers were on the march and got to the edge of the red zone but came away empty. Chris Berrios had a 30-yard catch and Howard recovered the ensuing fumble on the play to keep possession but Beckham missed a 37-yard field to the left with just under four minutes remaining before the break.
Anna used another big pass play when Gentry hit Collyn Swindell in stride for a 76-yard touchdown just moments before the lights shut off.
Van Alstyne tied the game at seven after Mateen Boudoin intercepted a pass along the left sideline. On the next snap, Montgomery connected with Howard for the 26-yard TD in the middle of the first quarter.
Anna kicked off the scoring when Gentry finished off the series with a one-yard keeper through the right side.
Both teams had their next games cancelled due to positive COVID-19 tests by their opponents — VA was supposed to host Gainesville and Anna was going to travel to North Lamar — and they are hoping to find replacements.