VAN ALSTYNE — Senior quarterback Keelan Crosby rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter alone to boost Anna past Van Alstyne, 33-15, in non-district play on Friday, Sept. 15 at Panther Stadium. Crosby also returned a first-quarter kickoff 54 yards to set up the Coyotes’ third touchdown of the frame, a short scamper by sophomore running back Abner Dubar.
Adding to Anna’s early barrage was senior linebacker Antonio Moon, who posted a tackle in the end zone for a safety. After one quarter, the Coyotes (2-1) led, 23-7, which proved to be plenty, but senior Kaleb Stewart’s 26-yard field goal added to Anna’s margin seconds before halftime.
Defensively, senior Emmonte Davis picked off two passes for the Coyotes, including one deep in Panther territory that set up Anna’s final score — a 13-yard dash by junior quarterback Fernando Rodriguez. Two Van Alstyne fumbles and a muffed punt were also pounced on by Coyotes, completing a dominant team performance.
“It was good to see us come out just clicking — offensively, defensively and on special teams,” Anna head coach Jason Heath said. “We did give up a score there at first. We adjusted well and made plays when we needed to. That’s what it came down to, being able to execute and make plays. I’m very proud of our overall effort. … I would’ve liked to have seen us get more points out of the second half. We had opportunities there.”
Of the Coyotes’ 287-yard rushing total, Heath said, “We got it going early. They played like they’re capable of playing. It’s kind of what we expected out of them in the first two games. We hadn’t quite seen it yet. … It was good to sit there and ride that horse.”
“It felt like we did what we did in practice all week,” Coyote offensive lineman Jeran Lewis said, “working on getting and staying low, pushing them out. We had good gains everywhere.”
Van Alstyne (2-1) scored on its first possession, tying the Coyotes, 7-7, on a 52-yard pass from Rhett Gallagher to Austin Moore. But the Panthers wouldn’t score again till the fourth quarter, when Justin Barnes scooped up a loose ball and returned it eight yards for a touchdown.
Gallagher threw for 110 yards on the night and rushed for team-high 52 yards.
“Obviously, we just weren’t very consistent,” Van Alstyne head coach Mikeal Miller said. “We turned the ball over and just never could get any momentum or get any drives sustained. We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. And credit to those guys [Anna]. They did a great job.”
Crosby finished with 159 yards on 17 carries in little over one half of play. He left the contest early in the third quarter and did not return. Crosby was later sporting crutches with a taped left ankle. “I think it was more of a precautionary deal,” Heath said. “We’ll evaluate and see where he’s at. I didn’t really see it [happen], just saw him limping and thought we’d pull him out.”
On his first carry, Crosby roamed for 40 yards and scored six plays later from 14 yards out. After the Panthers’ quick-strike TD knotted the score their defense forced a punt. But Van Alstyne muffed the punt’s reception and Anna’s Noah Palshaw fell on it at midfield. Five snaps later, on fourth-and-2, Crosby cruised 33 yards around the right side for the Coyotes’ second TD.
Things got worse for the Panthers on the ensuing kickoff when the ball bounced near the goal line and was downed by Van Alstyne’s deep man at the Panthers’ 1. On the next play, Moon nabbed Van Alstyne’s running back for a safety and Anna led, 16-7.
Crosby returned the following punt-kickoff to the Panthers’ 20, but a Coyotes unsportsmanlike penalty moved the ball back to the 35. Still, Anna pushed in for another score seven plays later on Dubar’s 3-yard dive. Dubar accounted for all 35 yards on the march.
After the teams traded punts, the Panthers put together a 10-play, 40-yard drive to the Coyotes’ 5-yard line, boosted by Gallagher’s 24-yard pass to Drelin Davis. Three plays later, from the 8, Gallagher’s toss to the end zone was picked off by Davis and returned down the left side across midfield where Davis lost the ball going down and Van Alstyne center Zane Madison recovered it.
The Panthers returned the favor two plays later, coughing it up to Anna senior defender Julian Mendoza. From the 50, the Coyotes then drove for Stewart’s field goal before the break.
The teams traded fumbles again in the third quarter, with senior Josiah Ivery grabbing the pigskin for Anna and senior Zach Wright recovering for Van Alstyne.
“Some of the stuff we were doing this week was pretty complex in the secondary,” Heath said of Anna’s defensive preparation. “We put a lot of pressure on those guys. It was kind of ‘bend but don’t break.’ They came up big when we needed them. … We were going to try to take away their run game and make them throw the ball, make them beat us throwing the ball. Having those picks there were big.”
Davis said Anna’s defensive backs were aware of Gallagher’s ability. “We were just trying to focus, get on the deep ball because their quarterback, he can throw that thing. We were just trying to keep everything in the box and just stay deep.”
Miller said the Panthers would strive to gain from this experience. “It’s only a loss if you don’t learn from it and move on. And that’s what I told them. There’s still a lot of football left to go. We have to do things differently during practice. We have to do things differently in mentally preparing for a game. If we don’t, then we’re not learning from this. Hopefully, this group of seniors will get us going in the right direction,” Miller stated.
After a second-straight win, the Coyotes look to keep their momentum. “We started off rough, 0-1,” Lewis said, “then came back with strong weeks, back-to-back. We hope to come back for a third one.”
More non-district action awaits both Anna and Van Alstyne on Friday, Sept 22: The Coyotes host Bonham (1-2) for Homecoming, while the Panthers travel to face Nevada Community (2-1).