Vandals outlast Tigers to gain state playoff berth, 49-14

Van Zandt County bragging rights and a trip to the upcoming Class 4A state playoffs were on the line Thursday night when the Van Vandals took on the Wills Point Tigers at Van’s Memorial Stadium.
When the dust settled, the Vandals punched their ticket for post-season play as they cruised past Wills Point, 49-14, as the Tigers were mathematically eliminated from any chance at qualifying for the state playoffs in 2015.
Before entering post-season competition, the Vandals, 6-3 overall and 2-2 in District 8-4A, Division I, will conclude their regular season schedule as they will travel to Kaufman to take on the district champion Kaufman Lions in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Friday, November 6.
The Vandals will enter Kaufman knowing that they will be the fourth place team in the district going into the state playoffs regardless of the outcome against the Lions.
Wills Point, 3-6 for the season and 1-3 in district play, will close out its 2015 regular season schedule as they will host the Athens Hornets Friday, November 6 in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
The district contest between the Vandals and the Tigers was moved up one day in the schedule due to anticipated stormy weather expected to hit Van Zandt County on Friday.
In the Van/Wills Point contest, the two teams tied in first downs, 17-17, with Van holding a slight edge in total yardage (337-300) as the Tigers outrushed the Vandals (223-165) with the Vandals leading in passing yards (172-77).
Individually, the Vandals were led offensively by senior running back Aphonso Thomas with 105 yards rushing on 14 carries and one TD.
Van sophomore quarterback Garrett Moseley completed 10 out of 11 passes for 172 yards and three TD’s in addition to rushing for 52 yards on eight carries and one TD.
Junior receiver Isaiah Allred contributed three receptions for 81 yards and two TD’s and senior Kendrick Jones caught three passes for 63 yards and one TD.
The Tigers were led on offense by senior RB Marques Crouch with 176 yards rushing on 39 carries as Crouch had more carries rushing (39) than Van had in total offensive plays (37).
Starting QB Logan Morris for the Tigers completed eight out of 11 passes for 63 yards as Wills Point executed 64 offensive plays against the Vandals.
Van scored TD’s on its first six offensive possessions and the Vandal defense stopped Wills Point on fourth down on three separate offensive series in addition to intercepting a Tiger pass near the end of the game.
Special teams also had a major impact in the outcome as Thomas received the opening kickoff and raced 85 yards for a TD giving the Vandals early momentum. Jozef Ruiz added the extra point to give Van a sudden 7-0 lead with 11:43 remaining in the first quarter.
Wills Point moved from its own 25 to the Vandal 34 in eight plays on its initial offensive series including pass completions from Morris covering 14 yards to wide receiver John Wesley Shelton and 10 yards to WR Brandon Smith.
Facing fourth down and five at the Van 34, the Tigers decided to go for the first down but Crouch was stopped after a one-yard gain by the Vandal defense giving Van possession at the Vandal 33.
Six plays later, Thomas ended a 77-yard drive with a 14-yard TD run. Ruiz added the extra point giving the Vandals a 14-0 advantage with 5:01 to play in the first quarter.
Key plays in the Vandal scoring drive included an 18-yard pass completion from Moseley to receiver Bradley Fitzgerald and a 23-yard run by Thomas.
The Tigers responded with a long time-consuming march as they moved 78 yards in 18 plays taking almost ten minutes off the first half clock.
RB Charles Smith ended the impressive ball-control drive with a 6-yard TD run. Vincent Tobias added the extra point cutting the Vandal lead over Wills Point to 14-7 with 7:41 remaining in the second quarter.
Key plays in the first Wills Point scoring march included running gains of 10 and 11 yards by Crouch and 10 yards by Brandon Smith.
The Vandals received another big play in the kicking game on the ensuing kickoff as Jones ran 81 yards on the kickoff return giving Van a first down and goal at the Tiger 2-yard line.
Two plays later, Moseley powered into the end zone on a 1-yard TD run. Ruiz added the extra point giving the Vandals a 21-7 lead with 6:44 remaining before intermission.
The Tigers moved from their own 26 to the Wills Point 48 on their next offensive possession in six plays including a 12-yard pass completion from Morris to Brandon Smith.  
Facing another fourth down decision, the Tigers decided to go for the first down instead of punting needing two yards for a first down at their own 48 but Morris tripped and fell for a three-yard loss giving the Vandals excellent field position at the Wills Point 45.
On the next play, Moseley connected with Jones on a 45-yard TD pass play. Ruiz added the extra point extending the Vandal lead to 28-7 with 3:42 remaining in the second quarter.
Following a poor 15-yard punt by the Tigers, the Vandals again had good field position at their own 43 with 2:04 remaining before halftime.
Van then moved 57 yards in eight plays for their next scoring drive as they had to overcome two offensive holding penalties.
Moseley ended the almost two-minute march by connecting with Allred on a 23-yard TD pass play. Ruiz added the extra point giving the Vandals a comfortable 35-7 advantage with 22 seconds to play in the second quarter.
Running gains of 19 yards by Thomas and 22 yards by Moseley set up the TD pass play during Van’s two-minute offense before halftime.
Wills Point showed no signs of giving up as they received the third quarter kickoff and moved from its own 25 to the Vandal 34 in 11 plays including a 10-yard run by Crouch.
For the third time in the game, the Tigers were in a position to make a decision on fourth down and again decided to go for the first down on fourth down and 10 but the pass from Morris to Brandon Smith was incomplete giving Van possession.
The Vandals moved 66 yards in eight plays as the Moseley/Allred connection worked again, this time on a 23-yard TD pass play to end the drive. Ruiz added the extra point giving the Vandals a commanding 42-7 advantage with 1:54 to play in the third quarter.
Pass completions from Moseley covering 35 yards to Allred and 12 yards to Jones were key plays in the Vandal scoring march.
Wills Point responded by moving 66 yards in five plays for their final scoring drive of the contest as Morris completed the drive with a 9-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Tobias added the extra point cutting Van’s lead to 42-14 with 11:55 remaining in the game.
A 49-yard run, the longest of the contest, by Crouch was a key play in the last Wills Point scoring drive against the Vandals.
Van concluded the scoring for the game by moving 78 yards in 11 plays as reserve RB Michael Huffer ended the drive with a 2-yard TD run. Ruiz added the extra point giving Van a 49-14 lead with 5:12 to play in the contest.
Running gains of 10 yards by Moseley and 10 and 12 yards by Thomas were key plays in the final TD march for the Vandals.
Wills Point’s final offensive drive of the evening saw the Tigers move from their own 30 to the Van 35 in eight plays including a 12-yard run by Morris.
On fourth down and one at the Vandal 35, the Tigers attempted to go for the first down but the Vandal defense turned Wills Point away again as the pass play down the sideline was intercepted by Van cornerback D. J. Dutton at the Van 5-yard line allowing the Vandals to run out the clock.