Even if the first three games of Vandegrift's District 13-6A schedule were very different in how they transpired, the result has been the same.
The Vipers held off a hard-charging Round Rock offense on Friday night, beating the Dragons 32-25 at Monroe Stadium to stay undefeated. Their last regular-season loss was nearly 700 days ago.
"I told the guys all week that this was going to be a playoff atmosphere, and that's exactly what happened," Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said. "This was a good development for us. It just speaks to the values of our kids and coaches."
Vandegrift opened the district slate with a defensive gem against Cedar Ridge, had to climb out of an early hole in its win against Hendrickson and shut down a potent Vista Ridge offense in the first three District 13-6A games.
Friday night, Round Rock - which entered the game averaging more than 50 points per game - rallied from a first-half deficit to take the lead at the third quarter break.
The Vipers scored early in the fourth quarter and got a key turnover on downs in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
"It's hard for the defense when you stop everybody all year long, and then you come against an offense that has been scoring like this, it's hard to not get down on yourselves," Sanders said. "Those guys found a way to rally and stay mentally pumped up and find a way to win."
Vandegrift senior quarterback Dru Dawson was methodical, completing 17 of 20 passes for 275 yards and four touchdowns and one interception. He ran seven times for 69 yards.
"His improvement continues to go up and up," Sanders said. "He was so accurate tonight. He made one bad throw, and when he couldn't throw it, he took off and ran. When we had the lull in the (second quarter), I heard him talking to the guys and encouraging them. That's what I needed from my senior quarterback."
Brady Middleton had three receptions for 3 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Trey Mongauzy caught seven passes for 112 yards and a touchdown and Bowen Lewis caught one pass for 47 yards and touchdown.
Lewis led the Vipers with 118 rushing yards on 24 carries.
Round Rock junior quarterback Seth Ford completed six of 10 passes for 34 yards and a touchdown and ran for 68 yards and a touchdown. Israel Morgan finished with 180 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
The Dragons' standout receiver Collin Sullivan was held to one reception, an 18-yard touchdown pass in the second half.
"We were not going to allow them to big-play us," Sanders said.
The Dragons marched down the field on their first drive and forced the Vipers to burn two of their timeouts. But Vandegrift answered right back with a seven-play drive capped off with a 19-yard pass from Dawson to Middleton.
Vandegrift came back with touchdowns on its next two drives, first on a pass from Dawson to Mongauzy late in the second quarter and again on a screen pass that Lewis took 49 yards for a score.
Ford slithered his way through the Vipers' defense to cut the deficit to one score before the half.
The Dragons faced a turnover on the first drive of the second half, and Ford scored on a 23-yard run a few plays later. Round Rock took the lead when Sullivan caught a touchdown pass with just over a minute left in the third.
But the Vipers scored early in the fourth and got the defensive hold they needed with just over five minutes remaining to stay perfect on the year.
"We had to go back to our even front on defense and made some adjustments there and got the critical stop in the fourth quarter," Sanders said. "That was going back to something we haven't done in years, but haven't done much of this year. The secret weapon is how smart they are."
Vandegrift is at McNeil, while Round Rock hosts winless Leander next Friday night.