ANNA — At least three times on Friday it appeared the Anna Coyotes’ Homecoming celebration would be a washout. The first involved a storm which delayed the start 45 minutes. The next two involved a pair of two-touchdown deficits supplied by the Van Alstyne Panthers. But through it all, the Coyotes prevailed in a steady rain, 30-29, for their third-straight win over their Highway 5 rivals to the north.
It was converted soccer player Gavin Reno’s 20-yard field goal with 2:27 left that provided Anna’s winning margin. This was the senior’s first pressure kick on a football field and he aced it — with a heavy, wet ball.
“It was a lot of nerves,” Reno said. “I just put my mind to it and kicked the ball like I usually do.”
A costly Panthers fumble at their own 30-yard-line set up Reno’s eventual game-winner.
Still, the Coyotes (2-1) had to sweat Van Alstyne’s final drive. Along with big stops by Anna’s Abner Dubar and Trey Cook, that late sequence featured a way-late pass interference call on the Coyotes and a referee’s inadvertent whistle that gave the Panthers (0-3) one last shot to win with a 45-yard field goal try and a eight seconds on the clock. The kick was a bit short and Anna’s celebration began.
“We found a way to keep plugging away, overcoming a lot of things,” Coyotes head coach Jason Heath said. “It’s a testament to those guys. I was proud of them for the way they kept finding a way to win. There were a lot of things on that final drive that didn’t go our way.”
Van Alstyne’s Jake Carroll bulled for a game-high 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries while quarterback Rhett Gallagher tallied 146 total yards with a TD pass and one rushing score.
Anna countered with Dorian Allen’s 153 yards on 16 carries, including an 80-yard scoring dash in the second quarter. Coyotes quarterback Junior Rodriguez tossed two touchdown passes to Emmonte Davis and logged a rushing TD, finishing with 116 yards through the air.
“It means that we have the ability to fight back whenever we’re down,” Anna defensive tackle Rasheed Readus said.
Carroll got Van Alstyne on the board first with scoring runs of 12 and 27 yards in the opening frame. Down 14-0, Anna got untracked in the second quarter with a 12-play, 63-yard drive capped by Rodriguez’ 30-yard touchdown throw to Davis over the middle.
After a VA punt, the Coyotes started from their own 26. Two plays later, and after a holding call, Allen charged into the Coyotes’ line and appeared to be wrapped up. Suddenly, he burst through a tackle and raced 80 yards to pay dirt down the near sideline. The teams traded punts before Gallagher connected with Cam Montgomery to retake the lead before halftime on a 48-yard, tackle-shedding touchdown connection. Dylan Porter’s two-point conversion catch put the Panthers up, 22-14, at the break.
To start the second half, Van Alstyne moved back to a two-TD advantage on Gallagher’s eight-yard scamper up the middle. The Coyotes fought back again, marching to Van Alstyne’s 36, boosted by two Panther 15-yard penalties — including a player ejection. After Dubar had a 41-yard TD run erased by holding, he went 11 yards to the 25. The drive stalled at the 13 and on fourth-and-goal with under four minutes left Rodriguez found Davis in the end zone for a touchdown.
Anna moved to the Panthers’ 10 to open the fourth and from there Rodriguez skirted left and cut it up for another touchdown. The twp-point conversion run failed and the Coyotes trailed, 29-27. Then Van Alstyne fumbled on its next play from scrimmage setting the stage for Reno’s decisive boot.