“My coach told me to read that quarterback and watch his eyes,” VanAlstine said. “I just watched his eyes and found that ball. He popped it right to me.”
VanAlstine then did his best impression of his speedy older brother, David, a 2012 Daily Star First Team All-Star as a running back and one of 14 seniors who graduated off of last season’s 6-3 squad.
VanAlstine headed to the right sideline and as he reached midfield, cut back across the field on a 71-yard return to the Crusaders’ 9.
“Yeah, I did,” Joel said when asked if he learned anything from watching his brother’s electrifying runs over the past couple of seasons. “My big brother is really crazy and he’s a great athlete. He taught me everything.”
One play later, Henry scored on an inside run from 6 yards and Josh Feyerabend’s extra point gave Unatego a 14-6 lead.
Late in the third quarter, the Spartans had a golden chance to increase their lead. After END turned the ball over on downs at Unatego’s 32, the Spartans used four runs and four passes to drive to the Crusaders’ 10. Feyerabend went 4-for-4 passing on the drive, the last a 9-yard hook up with Tanner Winchester near the left sideline that gave Unatego a first-and-goal.
On the next play, Winchester came in motion from the left side, took a handoff from Feyerabend and turned the corner near the right sideline. As he neared the goal line, Winchester extended the ball, but an END defender knocked it free and the Crusaders recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
END then embarked on an 80-yard scoring drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters. Thomas hit a sliding Joe Prunier near the left sideline on a fourth-and-4, giving END a first-and-goal at the 8. Derrick Stark scored on an inside trap on the next play as the Crusaders closed to 14-12 with 8:28 left.