Vandegrift looked dead and buried with less than 10 minutes left in its opening round playoff game.
The Vipers never gave up and scored the final 13 points to rally for a 27-26 win against San Antonio Johnson Friday night at Monroe Stadium to clinch their third straight bi-district championship.
“That last drive, it doesn’t get any more pressure baked than that,” Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said. “We did exactly what we needed to do. We were able to rush the passer and make them rush the throw.”
Justin Florence caught three passes for 45 and a touchdown, Peyton Ausley had five catches for 40 yards and Will Bruner had 29 receiving yards. Isaiah Smallwood rushed 17 times for 61 yards and touchdowns while Mack Parker had 27 yards and a score.
Quarterback Alex Fernandes ran for 105 and a touchdown and was 16 of 25 for 137 yards and touchdowns.
“(Fernandes) looked fast tonight,” Sanders said. “He threw the ball away when he needed to at times too. The offense was good overall. It was masterful.”
Johnson opened the game with a 24-yard field goal, but the Vipers answered with two scores, first an 18-yard run by Fernandes followed by a 29-yard pass from Fernandes to Florence. The Jaguars scored two more times and kicked a field goal to take a 20-14 lead into the break.
“The halftime message was that we played as bad as we could, so hopefully we got it out of our system,” Sanders said. “We had zero turnovers and three big penalties. We did some uncharacteristic things.”
Neither team came out of the break with momentum and the next score didn’t come until the fourth quarter. Johnson made it a two score game on a 44-yard pass before Parker scored with under 10 minutes left and Smallwood scored the game winning touchdown with less than a minute left on a 13-yard run.
The Vipers will face off with Cibolo Steele next Friday at 7:30 p.m. at San Marcos High School in the second round.
Cedar Park only led by a touchdown after one quarter Friday night at Willis, but poured things on in the second quarter, scoring four times en route to a 49-14 win. The Timberwolves haven’t lost since finishing second in the state in 2014.
Tyler Lavine had 169 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns and 84 yards and a score through the air. He only played in the first half. Quarterback Mak Sexton threw two touchdowns, one to Lavine and another to Sameer Alzer.
Brant McDonald and Kevin Penson each ran for a touchdown in the second half and the Timberwolves had 495 yards of total offense in their 27th straight win.
Cedar Park will face Bryan in round two. The date and time has yet to be announced.
Vista Ridge saw its season come to an end with a close 41-38 loss to San Antonio Churchill on Thursday night.
Sam Waldum returned the opening kick 80 yards for a touchdown and the Rangers led 31-24 at the half. Jacob Taute hit Jamil Pittman with a 27-yard touchdown pass in the second half, but Churchill, which lost its starting quarterback in the first half, scored with eight minutes left to seal the win.
The Rangers, state semifinalists from a year ago, end this season at 3-8 overall. They finished the district season 2-4 with wins over Lehman and Hays.