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Leopards fall to Van, 28-0

by Josh Richert | November 12, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.

LONGVIEW, Texas -- For the second bi-district game in a row and fourth time in two seasons, Van got the best of Liberty-Eylau.

The 10th-ranked Vandals turned two fumbles into 14 points, and the Leopards fell to Van, 28-0, in Friday's Class 4A, Division II bi-district game at Pirate Stadium.

The Vandals (11-0) finished with 386 yards of total offense, led by Alex Zifer's 21 carries for 107 yards and a TD and Jackson Rainey completing 10-of-16 passes for 157 yards and two scores. Brayden Bradshaw had four grabs for 111 yards and a score.

L-E's season ended at 5-6, after committing three turnovers.

J.J. Hampton was 9-of-17 for 93 yards and an interception. Wyatt Jones caught five balls for 49 yards, and Jayce Banks rushed 11 times for 36 yards.

Down three scores at halftime, the Leopard defense forced a fumble, and Leopard linebacker Shawn White recovered at their own 32 to thwart Van's first drive of the second half.

Liberty-Eylau drove to the Vandal 22 but turned the ball over on downs. On the first snap, Rainey hit Bradshaw deep for a 78-yard strike with 5:32 left in the third quarter.

That score extended Van's lead to 28-0.

The Leopards were driving, again, but a Zifer intercepted a pass for the third takeaway by the Vandals, setting up at their own 25.

The teams exchanged punts, and Van chewed up most of the fourth-quarter clock with a 16-play drive that ended on a turnover on downs with just 3:14 left in the game.

After the teams traded 3-and-outs on their initial possessions, the Vandals put together a clock-eating drive that took 11 plays to cover 77 yards. Garrett Florey bulled his way in from the 2 for the score with 2:38 left in the first quarter.

The ensuing kickoff to an up-back was muffed, and Brayden Bradshaw recovered for Van at the L-E 28.

It took two plays for the Vandals to get back in the end zone, this time Alex Zifer racing 12 yards around the right side. The PAT made it 14-0 with 1:37 left in the first.

The Leopards went 3-and-out, and Van was able to recover the football after muffing the punt at its own 34. The Vandals got to the Liberty-Eylau 40, but a fourth-down pass was batted away by White to force a turnover on downs.

L-E drove 59 yards on nine plays, but a fumble at the 1 was recovered by a Vandal in the end zone for a touchback.

Van drove 80 yards in 12 plays, with Luca Kozhev snagging an overthrown ball for a one-handed TD reception from 27 yards out with 30 seconds left before intermission.

The Leopards finished the half with 64 yards of total offense, and the Vandals had 202 yards at the half.

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