FRISCO - Built low to the ground with great power and acceleration, Kennedale sophomore running back D.J. Kirvan led a furious second-half comeback as the Wildcats scored 27 unanswered points to defeat Van, 34-28, and end the Vandals' thrilling season in the state quarterfinals Friday night at The Ford Center.
Kirvan did most of the damage by scoring all five Kennedale touchdowns.
Trailing at halftime, 21-7, Kennedale came out in the second half with a stout defense and a ground game that featured a one-two punch from Kirvan and his large and fast counterpart, Braelin Brown, to control the ball and squash Van's hopes of advancing further in the Class 4A Division I playoffs.
Brown never scored but carried the ball 17 times for 75 hard-earned yards while Kirvan was impressive with 152 yards on 21 carries and scored all three Kennedale touchdowns in a fourth quarter when everything went the Wildcats' way.
The Vandals finally got on the board in the final seconds of the game when backup quarterback Jaxon Taylor hit Bray Doring for a 13-yard TD. Two plays earlier, Van junior Garrett Moseley was forced from the game due to an injury.
In the final quarter, two critical plays sealed the Vandals' fate - the first a dropped pass on what looked like a sensational throw and catch from Moseley to Connor Houston and then a facemask personal foul when Van desperately needed a stop with Kennedale holding a 28-21 lead with just over four minutes to play.
Van took control in the first half after a shaky start that found the Vandals down early, 7-0, on a 25-yard Kirvan scamper. The Vandals looked to go behind by two scores when Moseley had a pass picked off and returned for a score. But a penalty wiped out the pick-six and defensive back Zeke Betancourt made a huge interception in the Van end zone to give the Vandals a much needed spark.
Moseley and company then went to work and wrested the momentum from Kennedale.
Van marched 80 yards on 13 plays to tie the game with 10:46 left in the second quarter and never looked back. Moseley had a key fourth down run to keep the chains moving and then scored from seven yards out. The TD and the drive seemed to settle Moseley and he engineered two more scoring drives before halftime.
Moseley scored Van's second touchdown on a 3-yard run that capped a six-play, 73-yard drive with the big play a 34-yard completion from Moseley to Isaiah Allred. The Vandals also used a key run from Cooper Bledsoe that set up a first and goal from the Kennedale 3. Moseley darted in on the next play.
Van's defense, after giving up a quick score to the Wildcats early in the game when Kirvan broke free and scored from 25 yards out, stiffened to allow only four first downs in the first half. The Vandals forced a punt late in the first half and an insurance touchdown came when Moseley hit Allred across the middle for a 22-yard score with only 24 seconds remaining before halftime.
The scoring pass came after Bledsoe had an exciting punt return to Kennedale's 1-yard line wiped out due to a chop block penalty. Bledsoe also had a touchdown run called back earlier in the second quarter. But the luck seemed to even out since Kennedale's pick-six by Baron Browning early in the game was scrubbed due to a Wildcat clip and then Betancourt got the big interception to turn the tide Van's way.
After the sluggish start, Moseley finished the opening half with 11 completions in 21 attempts for 164 yards and a touchdown. Ten of those receptions were to Allred and Connor Houston added five. Bray Doring had the other first half catch for a key 17-yard gain that kept the drive going.
Statistically, the game was two separate games with Van piling up yardage and first downs in the first half and Kennedale returning the favor in the second half. The Vandals got great games from their receiving corps with Allred finishing the game with seven catches for 119 yards and a TD and Houston snagging seven for 57.
In addition to Betancourt, Van got big defensive plays from Jake Kellam and Sam Reeves. Bledsoe also shored up Van's determined defensive effort against a much bigger Wildcats team. Bledsoe personified the Vandals' fighting spirit by going both ways and having great plays on both sides of the ball in the senior's final game.
The Vandals finish the season with a 12-2 mark under coach Jared Moffatt while Kennedale advances to the semifinals to play the winner of the Abilene Wylie and Levelland game.
KHS – 7 – 0 – 6 – 21 - 34
VHS – 0 – 21 –0 – 7 - 28
KHS – D.J. Kirvan 25 run, Kevin Tiero kick (1 Q 8:35)
VHS – Garrett Moseley 7 run, Alex Vasquez kick (2 Q – 10:46)
VHS – Moseley 3 run, Vasquez kick (2 Q 6:49)
VHS – Isaiah Allred 22 pass from Moseley, Vasquez kick (2 Q – 0:24)
KHS – Kirvan 6 run, kick failed (3Q – 9:13)
KHS – Kirvan 5 run, Aaron Rinehart run (4Q – 11:27)
KHS – Kirvan 10 run, Tiero kick (4Q – 6:51)
KHS – Kirvan 9 run, kick failed (4Q – 2:55)
VHS – Bray Doring 13 pass from Jaxon Taylor, Vasquez kick (4Q – 0:18)