Van Alstyne clinches playoff spot despite loss

By Rich Hilliard
For the Herald Democrat
Van Alstyne's Gavin Montgomery is tackled by Celina's Hunter Neely in District 4-4A (II) action.

VAN ALSTYNE — Even a 40-9 loss to Celina included a couple of bright spots for Van Alstyne.

The Bobcats' win, combined with Sanger's 34-26 victory against Krum, clinched a District 4-4A (II) playoff berth for the Panthers.

The other bright spot for Van Alstyne occurred during the final five minutes, and could be helpful in the upcoming playoffs: senior Aaron Beckham's field goal kicking.

Beckham booted field goals of 48, 45 and 37 yards to cap a game that gradually slipped out of reach for Van Alstyne, which managed just 143 yards — all but five of it coming on the ground.

The Panthers (3-5, 1-1) prompted a Celina punt after allowing only 18 yards on a six-play game-opening possession.

But the Bobcats (3-4, 2-1), who also clinched a playoff spot along with Sanger and Aubrey, allowed even less: four yards during a three-and-out first possession for Van Alstyne.

Reagan Davenport,who threw for 249 yards on 12-for-16 passing and four touchdowns, capped Celina's following 55-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to DJ Dell'Anno with 6:52 left in the first quarter.

Trailing 7-0, Dakota Howard returned the ensuing kickoff 27 yards, giving Van Alstyne good field position at its 41.

Runs of 11 and 17 yards by quarterback Gavin Montgomery, who had 17 rushes for 36 yards to lead VA, moved the Panthers to Celina's 30.

The drive stopped there but the Panthers regained possession a play later by recovering a fumble at the Bobcats' 41.

But Cason Wright's interception on fourth down at the Bobcats' 33 ended the drive.

Two plays later Davenport connected with Collin Urich for a touchdown: a 52-yard pass with 1:03 left in the quarter as Celina led 14-0.

The lead expanded to 20-0 when Davenport found Urich for a leaping 69-yard, catch-and-run pass with 8:32 left in the half.

Van Alstyne's ensuing drive had stalled at its 34, before Beckham, at punter, raced 21 yards for a first down on a fake to extend the possession but it only reached the Celina 44 before it stalled.

Celina drove almost into the red zone on the ensuing drive but settled for a 40-yard field goal attempt, which failed with 37 seconds left in the half.

Van Alstyne opened the second half with a possession that looked like it would stall deep in its territory before a third-down roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Panthers a first down at their 34.

Montgomery took the Panthers near midfield on a 13-yard run and Jaden Mahan had consecutive five-yard gains to get into Celina territory.

But a Van Alstyne fumble on the next play sparked another quick Celina scoring drive.

Three snaps later, Gabe Gayton scored the first of two touchdown runs in the second half with 9:09 left in the third quarter, as the Bobcats led 27-0. He finished with 154 yards on 14 carries.

After Howard returned the ensuing kickoff 27 yards to the Panthers' 32, Beckham eluded a punt block attempt by Celina and raced 13 yards to Van Alstyne's 42 for a first down.

Mahan gained a couple more yards before the Bobcats forced a punt and produced another scoring drive. Davenport ended it with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Urich, who had four catches for 135 yards, with 2:19 left in the third for a 34-0 advantage.

Celina led 40-0 after Gayton's second touchdown run with 9:20 left in the game before Beckham's kicking exhibition during the last five minutes.

He made a 48-yard field goal with 4:59 left and after Cade Milroy intercepted a pass to get the ball back for the Panthers, Beckham hit a 45-yard field goal with 2:54 remaining.

Will Frey then recovered a fumble, starting a drive that ended with 45 seconds left on Beckham's 37-yard field goal.

District 4-4A (II)

Celina               40

Van Alstyne        9