Vandegrift faces familiar opponent in area round

The Vipers lost to Cibolo Steele 17-0 last season


Vandegrift hopes the similarities between this postseason and the last end this Friday. 

For the second straight season, the Vipers came from behind to beat San Antonio Johnson in the first round to set up a second-round tilt with Cibolo Steele.  The Knights won 17-0 in the second round last season en route to a state finals appearance.

This Friday, the teams will face off at 7:30 p.m. at New Braunfels Canyon High School.

“We believed last year, but we now truly do believe that we can win this game,” Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said. “Steele is definitely a good opponent, but they’re 7-4 like us so we feel like we can do well. Our kids are confident, especially after a big win against an undefeated district champion.”

The Vipers scored 21 points in the second half to come from behind and beat the Jaguars 28-27 to six-game winning streak. The Knights beat San Antonio Brennan 31-3 in the bi-area round, rushing for more than 400 yards in the process. 

Justin Moore threw for 246 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the win against Johnson. Three receivers for the Vipers had more than 60 yards, led by Justin Florence with seven catches for 66 yards and a score. 

Isaiah Smallwood ran for 136 yards and a touchdown. Four Vipers had double-digit tackles, including Spencer Jones with a team-best 17 and Jonathan Roth with 15, four of which were for a loss. 

Sanders said there isn’t a problem staying faced after a dramatic come from behind win like they had. 

“After the game, you’re happy and excited and enjoying the moment,” he said. “We have a 24-hour rule. You can enjoy it for one day and then you move on. We’ve done that and we’re on to Steele.”

Senior receiver Peyton Ausley caught the last two touchdowns in the bi-district win. He leads the team this season with 934 yards and has 11 touchdowns. He’s caught 73 passes, 24 more than the No. 2 receiver. 

“He’s been super consistent,” Sanders said. “He’s done a great job of not only making tough catches but making the routine ones, too. He’s impressed with his positivity and believing in the team and the coaches. He’s done a great job with his leadership.”

Steele has a run-first approach on offense with Rice commit Brendan Brady lead the charge with 1,612 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. A pair of sophomores in De'Quavian Thomas (321 yards, 5 TDs) and Tylee Tyson (256 yards, 3 TDs) carry the rest of the load. 

The secondary boasts three players with DI offers, including  Caden Sterns, a four-star safety committed to play at Texas. He leads the Knights with four interceptions and is second on the team with 77 tackles. 

The Vipers held the Knights to a season-low 17 points in the area round last year and, if not for a late Steele touchdown, would have been even less. 

“We played them very close,” Sanders said. “Our guys know they we can hang with them and we’re an improved team. We’ll be ready to go.”