Consistency is key for Vandegrift offense in new district

The Vipers return four of their top six receivers and a pair of talented running backs


Vandegrift's new district rewards teams that can keep a level head and the Vipers have been a pinnacle of consistency pretty much since the school opened.

As every high school team does, Vandegrift has had a lot of turnover over the last two seasons on the offensive side of the ball, shuffling in new players on the line and at the skill positions, but it hasn't affected their playoff pedigree.

Now in a nine-team district featuring talented teams in Round Rock ISD and Hendrickson, that consistency will be needed more than ever.

"I can appreciate have to be good every week and any slip up can cost you," Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said. "Everyone is going to have a slip-up and it's going to come down to the last week. It's one of the best in the state from top to bottom, you can't argue that."

The Vipers will have a different signal caller for the third season in a row as junior Dru Dawson is set to take over at quarterback. In his one season as starting quarterback, Justin Moore threw for more than 2,500 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Four of the top six receivers are back with the Vipers, but only Drew Sanders' son, Matthew, returns on the offensive line. Isaiah Smallwood and Brendan Bennett will serve as the top two running backs for the second straight season.

"I've just kept working as though I don't have a starting spot and I've just kept the grind going," Smallwood said. "The more you're out here, the more you know about the game. I feel like I can help the team a lot, but we also have to throw the ball. It's a team sport and I can't just be about me."

Smallwood finished with 1,207 yards and 19 touchdowns with eight games of more than 100 yards last season, earning First-Team All-District honors.

"His leadership is tremendous and he's decided that he's going to work really hard in practice," Sanders said of the senior running back. "He's always worked hard, but he's taken it to another level this year."

In the last five seasons, Vandegrift is fifth in the Austin area with 44 wins between the regular and postseason. Cedar Ridge - the Vipers' first district game of the season - sits one slot ahead of them with 45 over that span.

"At the end of the season, we want to be a state contender and be the best team in the district hands down," Smallwood said. "We seem more physical on the offensive side and our defense has always been stacked so it feels like it could be a good year."

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