Playoff Preview: Van and Princeton meet again in 4A bi-district round

Published on Tuesday, 14 November 2017 22:50 - Written by CHRIS PARRY, cparry@tylerpaper.com

Van and Princeton meet again … and again … and again.

Friday’s Class 4A Division II Region II bi-district playoff matchup between the Vandals (9-1) and Panthers (5-5) marks the fourth time these two teams will meet in two years.

Van and Princeton faced off in the regular season in 2016 and this season and are now meeting in the bi-district round for the second-straight year. The good news for Van is the Vandals are 3-0 in the first three meetings, the most recent a 48-34 victory in Week 2 at Van.

Their rematch for this year is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium in Rockwall.

“You do it last year and you think, ‘What are the odds that it will happen again,’” Van coach Jared Moffatt said about facing Princeton twice in a year. “This game is different than the last game. There wasn’t anything riding on that last game. Non-district games are what they are. Someone’s season is going to end Friday night.”

Van and Princeton are meeting again by virtue of the Vandals finishing second in district after having its unbeaten run halted two weeks ago by Kaufman. The Vandals bounced back in its regular-season finale to blank Terrell 34-0.

Van defeated Princeton 41-14 last year in the bi-district round. Despite winning in Week 2, Moffatt said both teams will be different in this rematch, not only because of roster moves throughout the year, but because the finality of the situation ratchets up the intensity.

“You are going to get two good football teams, and it was a war the first time we played,” Moffatt said. “There’s a finality to the Texas high school playoffs. One minute you are playing, and if you lose, the next minute you’re not - all of that work you’ve done comes to a screeching halt.

“I don’t think most kids can really grasp it until they have to.”

Moffatt and the Vandals would rather not feel that feeling until they are holding up a state championship trophy in December.

Van reached the regional final round last year. The journey begins again on Friday with the winner of Van and Princeton facing the winner of Kennedale and Ranchview next week in the area round.

JACKSONVILLE PLAYING ITS BEST FOOTBALL AT RIGHT TIME

Wayne Coleman did not want to mention it because he didn’t want to put any added pressure on his team.

The Indians were on the road at Lindale in the first of successive must-win situations to have a chance to qualify for the playoffs. The Tribe passed the first test, defeating Lindale 25-15, but then faced a home game against Nacogdoches for its regular-season finale.

“It was almost like the more distractions, the better it was,” Coleman said of the past two weeks. Against Lindale you go into it knowing it’s do or die … last week it was Senior Night, the Tomato Bowl ground-breaking ceremony and Veterans Day celebration.

“(The distraction) made our kids refocus more and more on the task. There is no doubt that we’ve been getting better every week.”

Jacksonville defeated Nacogdoches 56-34 to gain the fourth and final playoff spot out of District 17-5A. The Indians (6-4) now face College Station (8-2) Friday in a Class 5A Division II Region III bi-district playoff game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium in Palestine.

Coleman said College Station presents its own challenges, but his team has been in the “playoffs” now for weeks.

“We told the guys three weeks ago, ‘You’re in the playoffs starting with the Lindale game. If you don’t win that one (it’s over),” Coleman said. “We’ve been feeling that and blocked out that pressure the last two weeks, and that is what we need to continue to do.”

The winner of this game will face the winner of Huntsville and Georgetown next week in the area round.