Moving up to 6A and getting placed in one of the toughest districts in the state, Vandegrift had to almost reinvent its program after having a ton of success in 5A.
The Vipers finished the season in the playoffs for the fourth straight year and the fifth time in six years. They finished the year at 6-6 overall and finished third in District 25-6A at 4-2, trailing only Lake Travis and Austin Westlake.
“All the questions about would we win a game or be successful in 6A were hovering around us,” Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said. “This is the senior group that led us despite all the uncertainty in 6A. I ap- preciate their leadership and strength as we did that.”
Vandegrift’s season ended in the second
round of the playoffs, falling 17-0 to perennial state power Cibolo Steele Friday night at San Mar- cos Rattler Stadium. They had an impressive come- back in the first round, rallying from down two scores to beat San Anto- nio Johnson.
“It’s disappointing we weren’t able to get it done against Steele,” Sanders said. “We were playing one of the best teams in 6A. For us to get to that point was a great accom- plishment, but we defi- nitely expect more.”
Senior quarterback Alex Fernandes is the big- gest piece of the offense leaving next season. The UTEP commit threw for 1,504 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and ran for another 287 yards and three scores.
But they will have a wealth of talent at the other skill positions on offense, bringing back
their top two running backs in Mack Parker (571 yards, five touchdowns) and Isaiah Smallwood (563 yards, nine touch- downs). Justin Florence, who caught 63 passes for 632 yards and seven touchdowns will be a se- nior next season.
“We have about five players on both sides of the ball coming back to build around,” Sanders
said. “They are multi- ple year starters and all those guys will lead the way. And we have some talent coming up. We like where we are program wise.”
Defensively, four of the Vipers’ top five tack- lers will be gone next sea- son, with Jonathan Roth the only returner. Also returning is defensive lineman Osorachukwu
Ifesinachukwu, who led the team with eight sacks this season.
The freshman team finished second in dis- trict play this season and the junior varsity finished behind Austin Westlake
and Lake Travis. So Sand- ers believes the future is bright for the Vipers.
“It sends a message to the rest of the district that even though we’re in 6A now, we’re here to stay,” he said.