VAN — The Van Vandals used a powerful ground attack to win the District 15-3A championship and Van Zandt County bragging rights Friday night.
With quarterback Garrett Smallwood (178 yards) and Matt Savis (107) leading the way, Van rushed for 351 yards en route to a 35-21 win over Canton at Van Memorial Stadium.
The Vandals will play Henderson in the Class 3A Division II playoffs next Friday at on Earl Campbell Field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium. Canton will face Gilmer Thursday night at the same location.
Hunter Hopkins rushed for three touchdowns for Van (9-1, 5-0).
Canton (8-2, 4-1) was led by sensational sophomore quarterback Chandler Eiland, who passed for 182 yards. Reece Sumner had 61 yards on the ground.
Chandler Eiland rushed 14 yards for a touchdown with 3:03 left in the third period to tie the score at 21-21, but from there the Vandals took control.
Van answered with a six-play, 85-yard drive capped off by Hopkins' second touchdown run of the night with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. Smallwood passed to Andrew Platter for 28 yards and found Carson Rucker for a huge 37-yard connection to set up the Hopkins run that gave Van a 28-21 advantage.
After Canton ran five plays, the Vandal defense held the Eagles for only four yards on fourth down to take over at the Eagle 49.
Savis rushed for four yards and Hopkins added an 11-yard run while Smallwood carried three times for 23 yards to set up the final Hopkins touchdown run with 7:31 left in the contest. The TD dash gave Van a 35-21 cushion.
Canton took a 7-0 when Sumner raced 39 yards into the end zone.
Hopkins returned the ensuing kickoff to Canton 46; and Sid Moore finished the drive with a 6-yard scoring run with 7:35 left in the opening stanza for the first tie of the game at 7-7.
After Canton drove deep into Vandal territory, Brock Moore made an outstanding interception to set up a long Van drive.
Van went on a 12-play, 95-yard drive capped off by a Hopkins' two-yard run with 2:15 left before halftime to lead 14-7.
The Eagles quickly answered back when they scored on four plays with Chandler Eiland finding Connor Eiland with three passes for 71 yards, the final connection was a 46-yard TD reception. Connor Eiland hung on despite being nailed by a Van defender with 1:36 left before halftime.
That was just enough time for the Vandals as Van went 76 yards with Smallwood connecting four of five passes and putting the final touches on the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Carson Rucker with one second remaining before intermission.
Layton Meyers had an interception for Van in the fourth period.
Ryan Slider had an interception and Bryce Sanford recovered a fumble for the Eagles.
Van 35, Canton 21
At Van Memorial Stadium
Canton 7 7 7 0 — 21
Van 7 14 7 7 — 35
C—Reece Sumner 39 run (Scott Monroe kick), 9:39.
V—Sid Moore 6 run (Frankie Grijalva kick), 7:35.
V—Hunter Hopkins 2 run (kick failed), 2:15.
C—Connor Eiland 46 pass from Chandler Eiland (Monroe kick), 1:36.
V—Carson Rucker 8 pass from Garrett Smallwood (Smallwood to Matt Savis pass),:01.
C—Chandler Eiland 14 run (Monroe kick), 3:03.
V—Hopkins 11 run (Grijalva kick), :11.
V—Hopkins 7 run (Grijalva kick), 7:31.
First Downs 16 28
Rushes-Yards 30-163 50-351
Passing Yards 182 165
Comp.-Att.-Int. 12-23-2 11-21-1
Punts-Avg. 2-45 1-13
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-80 10-85
RUSHING—Canton, Dakota Hesskew 9-40, Chandler Eiland 13-53, Reece Sumner 6-61, Colton Williams 1-5, Kade Warren 1-4. Van, Matt Savis 17-107, Garrett Smallwood 23-178, Sid Moore 4-29, Hunter Hopkins 6-37.
PASSING—Canton, Chandler Eiland 12-23-2 182. Van, Smallwood 11-21-1 165.
RECEIVING—Canton, Connor Eiland 6-88, Garrett Denbow 1-5, Nick Hobbs 2-29, Williams 3-62. Van, Luke McGowan 5-43, Andrew Platter 3-69, Savis 1-8, Carson Rucker 2-45.