VAN, Texas (KETK) – The Van Vandals walked away from the 2019 season with a bitter taste in their mouths, falling in the final game of the regular season at Henderson.
Van came up a head-to-head tie-breaker short of making the playoffs, missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2007.
But no longer in the vaunted District of Doom, the Vandals have gone to work. And even though they lost most of their starters to graduation, the group that remains is determined to right their ship.
“Last year, that last game still kind of sticks with us. Like we want to just let people know like that’s not who we are. We want to come out here and just get a chance and prove ourselves,” said Van senior receiver Javonta Thomas.
“Probably one of the few things me and my friends have talked about and that’s what we’ve deliberated on the most like what do we need to do to get far. And having a goal of like doing really good this year,” said Van senior linebacker Mauricio Herrera.
“They are very proud. Our program is proud. And last year definitely didn’t end the way we wanted it to. But from one year to the next, I mean this is a brand new team,” said Van 11th-year head coach Jared Moffatt.
It is very much so.
But many of the Vandals’ new starters were on a 9-1 JV team last year. Yes, 9-1 against programs from that old District of Doom.
And their new quarterback is not so new.
Junior Jackson Rainey saw plenty of action last season when then senior Jayton Moffatt was out with an injury.
“Just the fact, that he’s already taken his first varsity snaps. It won’t be his first time to go out there on a Friday night game and play, will make a big difference for him,” said Coach Moffatt.
“He’s real smart. He knows what he’s doing. But he’ll just ask some questions. I’ll just give him the answer. He’s pretty good,” said Thomas.
Rainey does have weapons with experience. Third-year starter Javonta Thomas is a dangerous athlete who accounted for over 1,400 yards of total offense, and 14 touchdowns in 2019 in route to 1st team all-district honors. And senior running back Zion Dunn has proven he can carry the load. He rushed for 827 yards as a junior.
“He’s got a reliable target in Javonta, cuz he’s been doing it since sophomore year. So, Vonta is really reliable and so is Zion, and they’ll take some pressure off Rainey’s shoulders,” said Herrera.
On the other side of ball, Herrera, a first team all-district selection and also a third-year starter, is back from injury after missing Van’s last two games a year ago.
“All he does is make tackles all over the field, really intelligent kid, great young man, tremendous competitor. So to have a guy like that especially with all our new starters on the defense this year, to have a guy that’s played that many snaps as him on the defensive side of the football, it’ll pay off tremendously for our defense,” said Moffatt
“Cutting the season short last year for me. I kind of have to like step it up even more so when I graduate I don’t have any more regrets,” Herrera explained.
And while they won’t miss being part of one of the toughest district in all of Class 4A, they don’t want the COVID-19 pandemic to force them to miss this season.
“Do you want to play and if you want to play. And if you want to play then we’ll do what we have to do. And so, that’s where these guys are and they know that,” said Moffatt.
“You don’t take anything for granted. We just gotta put a mask on, stay six feet apart. We can do that just so we can get a chance to play,” said Thomas.
Van opens the season at home against Palestine on August 28th. They scrimmage at Grand Saline on Friday the 21st at 7:00 p.m.
VAN 2020 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
|8/20/20||Grand Saline #||7:00PM||Grand Saline|
|10/30/20||Canton * ^||7:30PM||Van|
* DISTRICT GAMES
^ SENIOR NIGHT