VAN ALSTYNE — A persistent Gainesville running game and a struggling offense by the Panthers proved to be too much for Van Alstyne to overcome in a 26-8 loss to close out non-district play.


The Panthers (1-3), who begin defense of their District 5-3A (I) crown this week, were only able to pick up six first downs to go with three turnovers.


Gainesville (4-0) started off in the first quarter with a 10-play, 75-yards, and running five minutes off the clock. The drive ended with a 15-yard TD run by C.J. Feagins. Van Alstyne blocked the extra-point attempt and kept the early deficit to 6-0.


The running proved to be Gainesville’s most successful weapon as the Leopards ran 49 times for 262 yards with Brandon Baker doing most of the work. He finished with 31 carries for 176 yards.


The Panthers kept the game close through the third quarter, stopping Gainesville’s momentum and giving their offense a chance to claim the lead.


Van Alstyne took advantage of a scoring opportunity at the end of the second quarter on the back of a huge 70-yard catch-and-run by Jake Carroll to set up the Panthers two yards from the end zone. Zachary Moncier broke through the line and snagged the first points for the Panthers with a one-yard touchdown run, Tymothe Rosenthal snuck around the corner for a successful conversion and an 8-6 lead going into half-time.


The Panthers started the third quarter off with a strong drive that went 68 yards and included a 49-yard connection between Rosenthal and Drelin Davis to the 10-yard line. But Gainesville came up with the first of three interceptions to keep Van Alstyne from extended its lead.


“We are just not very disciplined right now,” Panthers head coach Mikeal Miller said. “We had that problem last week and struggled with it again this week. We are just a couple players away from turning things around, and that was our challenge this week – to get more guys bought in to be disciplined.”


Despite another interception in the quarter, the Panthers were able to stay ahead of Gainesville until the final minute of the quarter. After two quick rushing plays picked up 11 yards for the Leopards, Traylen Shinault let loose on the third play of the series and threw a bullet to Paul Lawson that was good for a 24-yard touchdown pass. An unsuccessful two-point conversion attempt kept Van Alstyne’s deficit at four.


The Leopards added to their lead in the fourth quarter with two scoring drives. One came two minutes into the frame on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Shinault to Robyn Hardin.


The final score came off a Baker two-yard touchdown run with two minutes left.


“They came out and hit us in the mouth that first drive, then defensively we began to settle down.” Miller said. “Offensively we never were able to get anything going, we had one good series. Other than that they were three-and-outs, a bust here and there. All we can do is keep working.”