Rarely does a district opener in the middle of September feel like a playoff game, but Vandegrift and Cedar Ridge have just that sense going into Friday night.
The Vipers and Raiders - the top two teams from District 13-6A a season ago - will begin the district schedule Friday at 7 p.m. at Dragon Stadium.
Last season, Vandegrift hit a field goal in overtime to knock off Cedar Ridge 17-14 on their way to a historic 10-0 season and the district crown, while the Raiders finished 9-1 overall.
"You have to go into it with a mindset that this is a playoff game," Cedar Ridge head coach Sam Robinson said. "There are a few other really good teams in our district that will have a say in it, but this could very well be it."
Robinson's club enters the game at 1-1, beating Temple and losing to Cedar Park in non-district play. Vandegrift boasts a 2-0 record, defeating Cedar Park and Ellison before district competition. The Vipers have yet to allow a point this season.
"We always watch last year's tape and evaluate what we could have done better, but every year is different and every game is different," Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders says. "It should be an excellent game. Every year is different, but Cedar Ridge is always good. On that fact alone, I know it's gonna be a tough game for us."
Senior quarterback Dru Dawson will be a focal point of Vandegrift's offense on Friday. Through the first two games, Dawson has gone 24-of-35 for 282 yards and a pair of touchdowns through the air.
"Their quarterback is an absolute winner," Robinson said. "He keeps things alive and does not make a lot of mistakes, so we will have to keep him from scrambling and getting first downs."
The Cedar Ridge offense will counter with dynamic running back Deuce Vaughn. After a 2018 season that saw the Kansas State commit run for almost 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, Vaughn has continued his dominance on the ground so far with over 450 yards over two games this season.
"Vaughn is our biggest running threat, and he has kind of become our biggest passing threat as well," Robinson continued. "We need to get the ball to some other receivers, and have some guys step up, to take a little bit of pressure off of Deuce."
Cedar Ridge continues District 13-6A competition next week when they travel to Bible Stadium to play Leander on Friday, while Vandegrift plays host to Hendrickson at Monroe Stadium on Sept. 20.
"It is always good to start off the district at 1-0, so that is our goal, plain and simple," Sanders says. "Hopefully the experience from last year, and the two non-district games before have prepared us for success again in District 13-6A."
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