Vista Ridge’s fourth-quarter comeback came up just short.
The Rangers scored 16 unanswered points in the final period to cut the lead to one score, but Hays held on for a 45-37 win to take control of the final playoff spot in District 25-6A.
“I’m proud of the kids for fighting the way they did,” Vista Ridge head coach Rodney Vincent said. “They continued to fight and had some adversity this week and tonight. That’s what gave them a chance tonight, fighting through everything they’ve been through.”
Senior quarterback Jacob Taute threw a five-yard screen pass to Joe Goodwin for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. After Naequwan White recovered an onside kick, Taute scored on a keeper and Vista Ridge converted the 2-point conversion on a double reverse receiver pass to Taute to cut the lead to one possession.
His desperation pass as time expired fell incomplete and he finished 14-of-31 passing for 212 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 75 yards and a score, a 44-yard burst in the second quarter.
Goodwin led the rushing attack with 93 yards and had a touchdown on the ground and through the air. Preston Chandler caught five passes for 56 yards, Dylan Leach had 51 receiving yards, and White caught a 52-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Hays opened up a 14-7 lead in the first quarter thanks to the rushing duo of Thailand Mayberry and Cade Powell.
The Rangers had two big plays called back via penalty in the second quarter. First, a perfectly timed 52-yard rainbow touchdown pass from to Devin Walker that would have cut the lead to three points followed by a long pass to just outside the Rebels’ end zone.
“Any penalty can change the momentum of a football game,” Vincent said. “We have been able to overcome those situations before. Tonight, some of them we did and some of them we didn’t. That’s just part of the game.”
Mayberry scampered for a 77-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage of the second half to create a gap too wide for Vista Ridge to overcome.
The Rangers have arguably one of the toughest closing stretches in the state, as they travel to face Lake Travis next Friday night and finish off the regular season at home against No. 2 Westlake.
They need a win in one of those games to put pressure on Hays for the final playoff spot in the district.
“We approach it the same way as we started the district,” Vincent said. “We have to focus on us. If you get to looking at the other team and who they are and what they’ve accomplished with their history and all those things. You have to focus on your play and not the magnitude of who you’re playing.”