VAN – The Palestine Wildcats find themselves in familiar territory after their 33-7 defeat at the hands of the Van Vandals Friday night.
Leading into the game, head coach Lance Angel talked about how sound and disciplined the Vandals were able to play defense. It was on display early as they forced the Wildcats into three consecutive three-and-outs to begin the game.
“I thought I had them better ready to play – obviously I didn't,” Angel said. “We got outplayed in the first half. We didn't play hard and we didn't execute. It's fixable.”
Both offenses began the contest relatively slow. Palestine struggled to establish their run game early but made up for it by holding Van to seven points in the first quarter – which came from a 59-yard touchdown run by Javonta Thomas on Van's first possession.
The game continued to stalemate. Each side showed flashes that eventually ended with them punting the ball back. Until early in the second quarter when Jakaryon Conley fumbled the ball – setting Van up inside Palestine's 20-yard line.
The Wildcats defense nearly had an opportunity to make a needed statement as they forced Van into a fourth-down attempt from the six-yard line.
Van pulled out a double reverse that resulted in a Thomas to Jackson Rainey touchdown connection to put them up 13-0 with a little over five minutes left until half – extra point was no good.
The Wildcats were unable to respond and were forced into another three-and-out.
Van got the ball back with 3:25 remaining in the second quarter already passed midfield. Their first play was swallowed up in the backfield by Dawaylyn Lewis for a loss of three.
The brief setback in momentum for the Vandals was overridden when Rainey found Ryder Shoquist down the field for a huge gain that put them on the Palestine eight-yard line.
With the Vandals knocking on the door once again, Palestine's Lewis came up with another huge tackle at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
However, a few plays later Rainey would continue to spread the wealth and hook up with Manny Moore in the back of the endzone to send the Vandals into half up 19-0.
“They had a great plan,” Angel said. “You play good people early on to find out what you need to fix. I still think we're going to be a good football team.”
Wildcats came out of the half with the ball attempting to find some breathing room on the ground. They found none and gave the ball back to a steaming Van offense after four plays.
Vandals only needed seven plays to travel 50 yards for another touchdown. Again, the Wildcats nearly had them off the field until Thomas was able to convert a crucial fourth-and-1, which set them up on the Wildcat 14.
A couple plays later, his quarterback would call his number again to give him his third touchdown, overall, on the night.
Down 26-0, Palestine found a slight burst of life midway through the third quarter. Junior De'Myzjean Martin stepped in at quarterback for Jarrod Walker due to an injury that trainers felt uncomfortable putting him back out on the field with.
Martin led the Wildcats on a near 10-play, 70-yard drive that ended with him connecting with sophomore Taj'Shawn Wilson for a 39-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.
Momentum began turning in the Wildcats favor as Kemon Ross recovered a fumble by Van on their next possession. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on it and surrendered the ball back in four plays.
Dawaylyn continued to assert his force on the defensive side and added a needed sack to his stat line early in the fourth quarter to force a punt.
Van added another touchdown score later in the quarter to extend their lead to 33-7. Jakaryon had several 20-yard gains on Palestine's final drive but fumbled the ball in the red zone.
The Wildcats fall to 0-1 on the year and will travel to Livingston for the second week of non-district action.
“We got a couple of pieces we need to move around,” Angel said. “We had a lot of guys starting here that played Thursday nights last year. So they have to grow up quickly. Tough place to come play your opener, but we'll learn from it. It's the beginning of the season.”