LINDALE — Lindale’s Aaron Smith stretched his arms above the defender, caught the ball and raced untouched to the end zone. The Eagles receiver made several plays like that on the night, but there can only be one winning score.
Even in a game like this.
In a showdown between neighboring rivals that bordered on bizarre, Smith caught eight passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns to help No. 10 Lindale past previously unbeaten Van, 50-43, in the ETFinalScore.com Game of the Week on Friday night at Eagle Stadium. His 65-yard catch and run put the Eagles, who led by as many as 19 points in the second half, ahead for good with 4:51 remaining.
With the dramatic victory in front of more than 6,000 fans, Lindale (7-1, 3-0) moved into the driver’s seat for the District 14-3A championship with two games remaining in the regular season. The Eagles, whose only loss came against top-ranked Chapel Hill, dropped the Vandals to 7-1 overall and 2-1 in the league.
In a game littered by personal fouls and Van star linebacker Dalton Santos being ejected in the first half, Van was on the edge of tying the score with about a minute remaining — until the unthinkable happened, which seemed like a fitting end to this night.
On fourth-and-4 at Lindale’s 14, Vandals standout quarterback Garrett Smallwood scrambled out of the pocket and picked up the first down. However, an open receiver in the corner of the end zone caught his attention and the junior threw the ball that direction after crossing the line of scrimmage to turn the ball over and end the game.
Lindale quarterback Clay Price finished the night 12 of 15 for 355 yards and four touchdowns, plus ran for another pair of scores. The senior’s lone error on the night came with less than nine minutes on the clock, when Van defensive back Hunter Hopkins stepped in front of a pass and returned the interception 63 yards to the end zone as part of the Vandals’ 20-point outburst in the fourth quarter. After getting the ball back at its own 29 with 6:54 left, Van went ahead 43-42 on a 9-yard score from Smallwood to Carson Rucker.
Lindale got the ball back at its own 32 and with plenty of time to work, but the Eagles used little of it thanks to Smith’s 65-yard score on the third play that stunned the visitor’s side of the stadium.
Smallwood finished 19 of 33 for 328 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with receiver Colby Rucker nine times for 200 yards and a touchdown and receiver Rigo Lemus five times for 79 yards and a score.
The teams combined for 20 penalties that resulted in 182 yards.
Lindale went into the break with a 21-14 lead, following an opening half that featured several personal fouls and a player ejection. Price and Smith hooked up for two scores in the half, the second giving the Eagles a 21-7 advantage with 3:29 to go.
Van, which was penalized seven times for 47 yards in the half, closed to within seven points when Smallwood connected with receiver Colby Rucker with 18 seconds remaining.
Lindale outgained Van 213-122 in total yards for the half, during which Price completed 8 of 15 passes for 85 yards and two scores.
No. 10 Lindale 50, Van 43
At Eagle Stadium, Lindale
Van 0 14 9 20 — 43
Lindale 7 14 21 8 — 50
LIN — Aaron Smith 19 pass from Clay Price (Luc Swimberghe), 1:22
VAN — Dalton Santos 8 run (Chuy Alverez kick), 9:30
LIN — Price 1 run (Swimberghe kick), 6:00
LIN — Smith 27 pass from Price (Swimberghe kick), 3:29
VAN — Colby Rucker 23 pass from Garrett Smallwood (Alverez kick), :18
VAN — Rigo Lemus 29 pass from Smallwood (kick blocked), 9:08
VAN — FG Alverez 25, 7:06
LIN — Trey Acy 2 run (Swimberghe kick), 4:56
LIN — Smith 19 pass from Price (Swimberghe kick), 4:41
LIN — Price 4 run (Swimberghe kick), :29
VAN — Carson Rucker 4 pass from Smallwood (Alverez kick), 11:34
VAN — Hunter Hopkins 63 interception return (Alverez kick), 8:59
VAN — Carson Rucker 9 pass from Smallwood (pass failed), 6:27
LIN — Smith 65 pass from Price (Price run), 4:51