VAN — Palestine headed to Van Friday after a big win over Henderson in their district opener. While that solid victory was a confidence booster, PHS harbored no false expectations of an easy contest in this District 10-4A, Division 1 meeting. Sure enough, early errors and questionable penalties put first quarter momentum solidly in Van’s camp. While the Vandals shut down the Wildcats’ running game, holding Jeremiah Davis to under 60 yards, heroics by the Wildcat defense and big plays by quarterback Christian Hutchinson kept Palestine hopes alive. Still, ultimately it was the Vandals with the 21-14 win.
The Vandals received the ball first, went to the air, and PHS' Tayon Huntley snagged an interception. The Wildcats’ celebration was short-lived, as a pass interference call gave the ball back to VHS. Showing multiple formations, the Vandals marched down the field, survived a fumble in the end zone, and grabbed the early lead.
Palestine could get nothing going, and was held to three-and-out. Van quarterback Jayson Moffatt then hit receiver Hunter Hutchins for a big gain, but he was chased down by Huntley with a touchdown-saving tackle at the 15. A red zone stop by the Wildcat defense ended that threat at the 7.
Palestine got the ball but the Vandals sacked Hutchinson, forced a fumble and recovered in the end zone for a Vandal touchdown. PHS was looking at a 14-point deficit with two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Wildcats got good field position on a high, short kick, and Jeremiah Davis picked up one first down. Hutchinson targeted Quintin Cook who juggled the ball into the end zone, but could not put it away. The ball went back over on downs.
Cook and the Palestine defenders held Van to a punt as the first quarter ended.
The Wildcat offense got in gear. Davis leapt defenders to pick up a first down, then on 3rd-and-10 from their own 28, Hutchinson launched a missile to Jakerian Conley who scored the 72-yard touchdown.
An interception by JK Lockett ended Van’s next drive, and the 14-7 score would stand as the teams went to the locker rooms.
The Wildcats received the second half kickoff and opened with a promising run by Davis, but they went to that well too often in the drive and Vandals quickly shut him down, cold.
Van drove back to score on a 20-yard pass to Marcus Orozco.
Palestine started their next possession at their own 25-yard-line, and Hutchinson connected with Marquis Thompson on several passes that moved the Wildcats inside the 10. There, however, Van put up a wall and took over on downs.
Van burned up most of the fourth quarter clock with a sustained drive, but the PHS defenders stopped them at the 9.
Hutchinson and Thompson teamed up for a 91-yard pass play that cut the deficit to seven with 3:18 left in the time. The ensuing on-side kick was controlled by Van.
Palestine defenders again stopped the Vandals and the Wildcat offense got one more shot. Hutchinson and Thompson connected on three passes, but the touchdown strike was denied them, and the Vandals held on for the win.
Palestine, now 3-4 and 1-1 in District, hosts Carthage next week.