POTTSBORO — Van Alstyne barely squeaked by in their game last season against district rival Pottsboro. This year however, the Panthers used a strong second-quarter effort to open up some breathing room on the way to a 41-20 victory over the Cardinals in District 5-3A (I) play on Friday night.

The Panthers (3-3, 2-0) set the tone early in the first quarter with a crisp drive down the field that ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Rhett Gallagher to Drelin Davis less than two minutes into the game.

The Cardinals (3-3, 1-1) put tougher a successful drive of their own before the end of the quarter. Luke Miller caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Zach Talley tied the game at seven going into the second quarter.

Van Alstyne jumped back in front with a long drive in the second quarter that saw Gallagher go 3-for-4 for 33 yards and ended with Gallagher’s 11-yard throw on the run to Nathan Cuthbertson for his second TD pass of the game. The PAT was blocked, giving the Panthers a 13-7 lead.

The next time Van Alstyne had the ball, Gallagher took a QB keeper around the right side for 75 yards and he also managed to sneak across the line for the two-point conversion and a 21-7 advantage.

Pottsboro put together a response with a 56-yard drive that ended in a one-yard rushing touchdown from Cy Shope that saw the Cardinals shrink the deficit to 21-14.

Van Alstyne wasn’t done scoring in the half as Gallagher completed five consecutive passes for 40 yards, the last an eight-yard scoring strike to Cuthbertson with seven seconds on the clock for a 28-14 half-time lead.

The third quarter saw the scoring pace slow thanks to a slew of penalties and fumbles from both teams. Jake Carroll broke the ice, shedding tackles for a 63-yard TD run with four minutes left in the third quarter that staked Van Alstyne to a 34-14 lead. Carroll finished with 28 carries for 139 yards.

Early in the fourth quarter the Panthers got their final touchdown on a one-yard keeper by Gallagher. The senior quarterback was 13-of-16 passing for 165 yards and three TDs while rushing eight times for 99 yards.

Jasek Hooker closed out the scoring with Pottsboro’s last touchdown when he caught an 11-yard pass from Dylan Kulbeth three minutes later and the Cardinals were unable to close the gap any further.

The Cardinals saw some hope after recovering their own punt and taking the opportunity to score on a 11 yard receiving touchdown. Talley finished with 15 carries for 90 yards and was 6-of-10 passing for 103 yards and a touchdown while Will Cates added 71 yards on 12 carries.

“They were our challenge going into this game,” Van Alstyne head coach Mike Miller. “But luckily we started clicking with everything at the right time and obviously there’s a lot of football left to be played, but this was a big win for us tonight. Just very proud of our kids; we need to be a bit more consistent but we faced some adversity tonight but we just kept working through it and that’s what you like to see as a coach.”