By Jack Walker
Van Alstyne Leader
VAN ALSTYNE— Pottsboro took an even firmer grip in search of its third consecutive district championship with a 23-21 win at Van Alstyne in District 6-2A (I) action Friday night.
Even though the Cardinals have a fumble to thank for helping get them in that position.
With Pottsboro (8-1, 5-0) leading, 16-14, late in the third quarter and facing third-and-10 from its own end, Hunter Mullenix threw a pass in the left flat to Austin Tol.
Tol dropped the football just after the catch and Nate Watson recovered what was ruled to be a fumble, advancing it 69 yards for the Cardinals’ third touchdown of the night.
Van Alstyne (4-4, 2-2) cut the lead to two on Dont’e Kehler’s 14-yard TD run with 7:58 remaining, before a final drive by the Panthers was stopped at the Van Alstyne 35-yard line to preserve the victory for Pottsboro.
The Cardinals took advantage of the first turnover of the night as Isaiah Urquizo picked off a pass at midfield midway through the first quarter.
After Pottsboro picked up one first down, Van Alstyne forced a third-and-11 but a penalty kept the drive alive.
A second flag against the Panthers in the end zone led to a six-yard scoring run by Thaddeus Flinn.
After Kearon Redmon intercepted a Pottsboro pass, Van Alstyne put together a 68-yard drive to tie the game when Alex Phllips scored from three yards out.
Pottsboro came right back with a seven play, 53-yard drive to reclaim the lead.
A 31-yard run by Mullenix moved the ball to the Van Alstyne six-yard line and Flinn, taking a direct snap, ran it in for this second touchdown.
“We call that our wild-card play. Flinn just gets behind our big five and finds a crease, he’s getting better and better at it,” Pottsboro coach Matt Poe said.
The Cardinals drove 80 yards late in the first half and a Kory Waller field goal from 24 yards with nine seconds left gave Pottsboro a 16-7 lead at the break.
Van Alstyne took the second half kickoff and drove 80 yards for its second touchdown of the night. Phillips, who finished with 150 yards on 30 carries, ran for 61 of those in five carries with a 29-yard blast moving the ball to the Cardinal nine-yard line.
Terry Lawrence scored from there to make it a 16-14 game.
Van Alstyne recovered the first of two Pottsboro fumbles on the Cardinals’ next possession to stop a drive inside the Panthers’ 10-yard line late in the third quarter.
Van Alstyne picked up a couple of first downs before having to punt, and in its next possession, Pottsboro got the catch and fumble advance by Tol and Watson.
The Panthers got another fumble recovery on Pottsboro’s next possession, taking over at the Cardinals 24-yard line.
Four plays later, Kehler carried it in from 25 yards out to cut the Cardinal lead to two. It ended that way as the Panthers couldn’t take advantage of a late pass interception, with a fourth-down run coming up just inches short.
“It just came down to big plays and we couldn’t come up with one there at the end,” Van Alstyne coach Mikeal Miller said. “You have to come up with those plays in big games and we couldn’t do it tonight.”
The Cardinals will look to clinch the outright district title when it closes the season at home against Sunnyvale while Van Alstyne can move one step closer to a playoff berth when it travels to Howe.