VAN ALSTYNE — The Commerce Tigers had a good offensive effort Friday night, but it was not enough to beat the Van Alstyne Panthers as the Tigers fell 46-36 in District 5-3A1 action.
The Tigers were ahead 21-14 after one quarter, but allowed the Panthers to score 25 unanswered points while Commerce was shut out in both the second and third quarters.
The Panthers got the scoring started in the first quarter on a 50-yard bomb from quarterback Tymothe Rosenthal to Drelin Davis, with Davis shaking off a would-be tackler to run in for the score.
The Tigers almost answered right back, as Brad Caldwell sprinted through a hole on the ensuing kickoff for a 90-yard touchdown return, but it was called back on a holding penalty. Thankfully for Commerce, they would still end up with seven points on the drive, as Caldwell scampered in for a 27-yard touchdown on third down.
The Tigers looked to have all the momentum as Brandon Turner scooped up a fumble on Van Alstyne’s next drive when Rosenthal and running back Jake Carroll missed the handoff. They took their first lead of the game shortly after on a wild fourth-down play that saw quarterback J’Den Wilson scramble across almost the entire width of the field before finding Ashton Seale for a 28-yard touchdown pass.
The momentum quickly swung the other direction, however, as the Panthers’ Davis returned the following kickoff 93-yards for a score, with not a penalty flag in sight. The game was knotted up at 14.
The Tigers had good field position for their next drive and were able to go ahead again just before the quarter ended on a 17-yard rush from Xzay Basham. Commerce led 21-14 after an action-packed first quarter.
But the next two frames would see less action for Commerce, as Van Alstyne not only took the lead, but began to run away with it. Carroll had a 22-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game up for the fourth time, then Rosenthal found Davis again, this time for a 40-yard pitch and catch. Following a two-point conversion, the Panthers were up 29-21, much to the delight of the home crowd at Panther Stadium.
Van Alstyne added a 43-yard field goal from Aaron Beckham to extend the lead to two scores, and the Tigers tried to answer with a three-pointer of their own. But Rueben Casteneda’s 47-yard try did not have the distance as time expired in the second quarter. After having the lead, Commerce was down 32-21 at halftime.
The Tigers got a huge boost after their defense stopped the Panthers on their opening second-half drive, stonewalling Van Alstyne’s potent attack at the one-yard line three consecutive times to force a 23-yard field goal attempt from Danny Kern, who missed the try. But Commerce could not capitalize and had a three-and-out on the following drive.
Carroll, who was the Panthers’ leading rusher. exited the game with an injury in the third quarter, and a platoon of backs came in to the game in relief. Zachary Moncier added to Van Alstyne’s lead with a 13-yard touchdown run and the third quarter ended with Commerce trailing 39-21.
The Tigers finished the quarter threatening to score from the one-yard-line, and Caldwell ran it into the end zone on the second play of the final frame to give Commerce its first points since the 1:23 mark of the first quarter.
It looked like a comeback was in order as Rosenthal was absolutely blasted with an open-field hit, causing him to drop the ball, which the Tigers’ Dayton Dunbar fell on to recover. However, the next drive was erased as Wilson tossed an interception to Van Alstyne’s Dalton McCaslin on the very next play. The Panthers then chewed up more than seven minutes of clock on their ensuing drive, culminating in a four-yard touchdown dive by Jaden Mahan.
This gave Commerce just 1:32 to try and make something happen. Wilson did a good job of managing a two-minute offense and methodically marching down the field before tossing a nine-yard scoring strike to Caldwell with just three seconds left in the game. After a successful two-point conversion, the Tigers were down 46-36, and that was how the game ended.
Van Alstyne’s quarterback Rosenthal had a strong night, completing 12 of 17 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite receiver was Davis, who caught six balls for 149 yards and scores of 40 and 50 yards. Davis also returned a kickoff 93 yards for a score in the first half. Carroll was the Panthers’ leading rusher with 105 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown before going down with an injury in the second half. Mahan came into the game in relief and ended up with 53 yards and a score on 10 carries.
Tiger signal-caller Wilson finished the game having completed nine of 19 throws for 87 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also led the team in rushing, gaining 72 yards on 13 carries. Dunbar had 69 yards on the ground on 13 rushes, while Basham had 40 yards and a touchdown on eight runs. Basham also caught four passes for 38 yards. Caldwell had a big night, only running the ball four times for 31 yards but punching in two scores, while also catching a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. Caldwell just missed a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown, as it was called back on a holding penalty. Seale caught two passes for 29 yards and a fourth-down touchdown.
The loss drops Commerce to 2-5 on the season and 1-2 in district play, while Van Alstyne improves to 4-4 and 3-1 in the district. The Tigers return home to face Howe next week, while the Panthers have a bye week.