VAN — The Bulldogs just couldn’t hold onto the ball.
“You can’t beat a good team when you turn the ball over five times,” said Van High football coach Mark Agosti. “We beat ourselves tonight.”
Van (4-2) wasn’t alone in that category as Mount View (5-1) suffered three lost fumbles on a muddy field during intermittent downpours, but the Golden Knights held on for a 12-8 win at Herschel Jarrell Field.
The teams entered play on Friday knotted in a tie for a No. 10 ranking in Class A.
“I’m proud of our guys for playing their guts out to the final whistle, and we played a very disciplined game,” Agosti added. “We executed our game plan on both sides of the ball. Our defense was incredible and (defensive coordinator) Ron (Deal) had them ready to play.”
Just 30 minutes before kickoff, a heavy rainfall made what was an already wet field a muddy playing surface.
The Bulldogs moved the ball on their first series, with signal caller Guner Flores and backs Brady Green and Byron Stewart putting the Knights on their heels but a turnover on downs at the Mount View 28 yard-line killed the drive.
Van’s defense set the tone early, when the forced the Golden Knights into a fourth-and-19 and they punted back to the Bulldogs.
Van fumbled three times in the first half and Mount View twice — all resulting in turnovers in a sloppy pair of quarters that resulted in a scoreless deadlock at intermission. The squads moved the football between the 30s but saw only two red zone appearances combined.
“The scoreboard didn’t show it but we felt we owned the line of scrimmage in the first half and our guys up front were moving the pile for extra yards,” Agosti said. “We were confident in what we were trying to do.”
The third quarter proved disastrous for Van.
On their first series, Mount View quarterback Ryan Long hit wideout Tony Bailey in stride on a slant pattern and he took the play 67 yards for a score. The Knights were unsuccessful on the two-point conversion attempt and they led, 6-0, with 10:21 left in the third frame.
On the following kickoff, Van bobbled the ball and the Knights recovered on the 19-yard line.
The connection between Long and Bailey gashed the Bulldogs again on a 19-yard toss to the flats, and Coach Maurice Gravely’s Mount View squad took a quick 12-0 lead they would not relinquish.
The Bulldogs didn’t deviate from their offensive game plan and they fed Stewart and Green and continued to move the pile with second-effort yardage.
Green finished with 107 yards on 19 carries, and Stewart had 71 yards on 10 touches for Van.
Van’s most impressive drive started on their own 9-yard line, but ended on the Mount View 24 when yet another fumble put the defense back on the field with 4:11 to go in the third period.
The Bulldogs suffered exchange issues during another heavy rain in the second half, with several near-missed handoffs and snaps of the ball.
Van found pay dirt in the final frame.
With Mount View heavily committed to stacking the box on defense, Van began pounding the edge that saw gains of 7, 11 and 9 yards respectively, resulting in an off-tackle score from Stewart. Flores added the conversion on a keeper that saw him dive into the end zone off of what appeared to be a zone read play and slide 10 feet through the saturated grass.
Van trimmed the lead to 12-8 and the Bulldog faithful were energized.
Mount View’s Thomas Bell returned the following onside kick attempt by Van for a score, but a penalty nullified the dazzling play that saw him sprint down the sideline utilizing blocks from teammates along the way.
The Bulldogs pushed the Knights backward after they took over on the 20 after the penalty. Van had two shots to drive and score with under 4 minutes to go, but Mount View’s defense stood tall to secure the road win.
A win over the Knights would have made a playoff statement for Van, but the Bulldogs still control their own destiny moving forward.
“We have to put this one behind us,” Agosti said. “We have a good Sherman team coming over next week, and we have to focus on that immediately.”
In the loss, Van held Mount View to minus 15 yards rushing in the contest and 70 yards passing — which came on the Golden Knights’ scoring plays.
Ridge Flores led the Bulldog defensive effort with 17 tackles on the night.
After an open week, the Tide will play at Van’s Herschel Jarrell Field on Oct. 15 in the Showdown for the Shovel. Sherman hammered the Bulldogs in the rivalry game last season, 48-0.
Sherman fell to Mount View 44-18 in their last game on Oct. 1.
The Tide leads the Bulldogs all-time, 44-17 in a series that began in 1931, but the Class A schools have not played every year, particularly when Sherman was in Class AA.
That game is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m. The winner will take the coal shovel back to their school and will house it in their trophy case. The Tide has retained the spade since its inaugural year of 2017.