Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders is working to get the program among the elite 6A programs in the state, and this season has been a huge step in the right direction.
The Vipers can check off another box on Friday night when they finish off the regular season against Stony Point at Dragon Stadium at 7 p.m. with the ultimate goal of finishing the district and regular season undefeated for the first time in school history.
“Stony Point is a very important game, but it’s about us continuing to get better,” Sanders said. “They’re a great team to go against right before the playoffs because they’ve got a lot of speed and a winning record against some good teams.”
The Vipers are receiving votes in the state AP poll and are ranked No. 4 in the Class 6A, Region II coaches poll.
Vandegrift beat Leander 57-7 last Friday night after its bye week on the last week of October. Stony Point has won two games in a row to vault back into the playoff race, beating McNeil 42-21 on Oct. 26 and downing Westwood 31-17 last Thursday night.
The Tigers need to beat the Vipers and have Round Rock lose to Vista Ridge on Friday night to make it to the postseason.
Stony Point’s offense is boom-or-bust, and the Tigers had their fair share in their win against the Warriors last week. Kyle Overton threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns and had five passes of 30 yards or more while receiver Daelan Loyden caught four passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns, an average of 34 yards per catch.
“We’ve played multiple offenses like that,” Sanders said. “This district is extremely explosive on the offensive side of the ball. We’ve played against great players all year that have a ton of speed and the coaches have done a good job getting that speed in the open field. We think we’re one of the best defenses in the district and the area, so we will be ready for the test.”
The Vipers do have the best defense in the district, allowing just 14 points a game on average.
Drew Nelson and Reece Watson each have four interceptions for Vandegrift this season and Timothy Hanna has three. The team has combined for nine total fumble recoveries and an incredible 28 sacks, led by Trevor Harrison with seven.
With a playoff spot already locked up, the Vipers aren’t overlooking the Tigers.
“It’s just a realization that’s it’s a big picture,” Sanders said. “We get ready one week at a time and we’ll be ready.”
The Vandegrift offense has been balanced the entire season, averaging 195.8 yards through the air and 182.6 per game on the ground. Dru Dawson has thrown for 1,535 yards and 16 touchdowns with just three interceptions while Isaiah Smallwood has rushed for 884 yards and 11 scores on the ground.
The Vipers have consistently made the playoffs since they first took the field in 2010, but they haven’t been able to get past the second round since they jumped up to the 6A level two years ago.
Friday night is an opportunity for Vandegrift to do set another school first and help launch what they hope will be a successful playoff run. Everybody around the school, team and community is excited.
“With the season we’re having, we have a few more questions to answer and a few more fans excited,” Sanders said. “I’m enjoying that and the kids are too. It’s nice to have high expectations and it’s fun to be recognized that you’re doing well. You just can’t fall into the trap of believing that you’ve already arrived.”
Cedar Park at Manor
Mustang Stadium, Manor
Friday, 7 p.m.
The playoff situation is already set for District 11-5A Division II and both the Timberwolves and Mustangs have already locked up a postseason spot. Manor, which dropped down to Class 5A this season, started the district season with three straight losses but has since lost back-to-back games to Hutto and Georgetown. The Mustangs have the second-best offense in district play, averaging 36.2 points per game. Cedar Park rebounded from a lopsided loss to the Hippos with a 41-7 win over Pflugerville last Friday night. Sophomore Ryder Hernandez threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns while Brandon Breed caught two touchdowns and Carson Neel had one score. The Timberwolves' defense combined for 15 tackles for loss led by Jacob Munoz with six. The only other meeting between the two teams was a 40-14 win by Cedar Park in the state semifinals in 2012.
Hutto at Rouse
Bible Stadium, Leander
Friday, 7 p.m.
Hutto is looking to cap off a perfect season, and while Rouse can't sneak into the playoffs like it did last year, the Raiders can play spoiler. The high-powered Hippos have one of, if not the most explosive offenses in the state. Led by UCLA-bound quarterback Chase Griffin, Hutto averages an eye-popping 61 points per game. Griffin has thrown for 2,982 and 39 touchdowns this season with just two interceptions. Receiver Caleb Forrest had 1,093 yards and 14 touchdowns andTexas Tech-bound running back Chux Neabuko III has rushed for 658 yards and seven touchdowns. The Hippos season highlight is a 65-21 shellacking of Cedar Park. Rouse lost 34-14 at Georgetown last Friday one week after winning its first game of the district season against Connally on Oct. 26. The Raiders trio of Ethan Moore, Tavian Tate and Mylan Mitchell average 193.6 rushing yards a game. Hutto has won two straight games over Rouse the last two seasons during district play.
Glenn at Bastrop
Bastrop Memorial Stadium, Cedar Creek
Friday, 7 p.m.
What a season it's already been for Glenn, making the playoffs, clinching the top district seed and at least a share of the district title in its first varsity season. The Grizzlies can clinch the title outright with a win Friday, while a win for Bastrop will clinch a spot in the playoffs while a loss can potentially be season-ending. The Bears have dropped back-to-back games to Brenham and Elgin to fall to 3-3 in district play. Senior running back Jhequay Chretin rushed for 235 yards and three touchdowns in last week's loss to the Wildcats. He has six games of 100 yards or more and 13 touchdowns on the season for Bastrop, which averages more than 215 yards a game on the ground. Glenn has a much more balanced offense with a slight edge to the run game and bruising backs Julian Morris and Lamont Slade. Do-it-all offensive player Khorin Thompson didn't play in the last game against the Cubs.
Westwood at Cedar Ridge
Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, Round Rock
Friday, 7 p.m.
Cedar Ridge is starting to hit its stride as the playoffs near and Westwood is looking to get its young players more experience and send the seniors out on a high note. The Raiders have won six straight games since losing to Vandegrift in overtime in the first game of district play. Cedar Ridge running back Deuce Vaughn set a school record, rushing for more than 400 yards in a win against Round Rock two weeks ago and receiver Jaylen Ellis continued his strong senior season with 153 receiving yards and a touchdown last week in a win against McNeil. Westwood's sophomore quarterback R.J. Martinez paced the Warriors with 152 yards and a touchdown in their loss to Stony Point last Thursday night and running back Nate Anderson had 64 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Raiders hold a 5-1 series lead over the Warriors, with the lone Westwood win coming in 2012.
McNeil at Hendrickson
The Pfield, Pflugerville
Friday, 7 p.m.
Hendrickson has locked up a playoff spot thanks to back-to-back wins against Vista Ridge and Round Rock, while McNeil was eliminated from postseason contention with a loss to Cedar Ridge last week. The Hawks have been playing much better the last couple weeks, beating the Rangers 47-7 and the Dragons 56-35 last week. Their defense is the second-best in the district, allowing just 16.6 points per game this season. McNeil has had a resurgence this season after winning a total of two district games the last two seasons. The offensive duo of Zane Kampfer and Jordan Kerley will have one more chance to show out this season. Kampfer, a senior quarterback, has thrown for 2,303 yards and 23 touchdowns while Kerley, an Arizona State commit, has caught 62 passes for 1,067 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Mavs have never beaten the Hawks in six games dating back to 2012.
Round Rock at Vista Ridge
Gupton Stadium, Cedar Park
Friday, 7 p.m.
A win for Round Rock on Friday night and it returns to the playoff for the first time in two seasons. Vista Ridge has been eliminated and is looking for its second district win. The Rangers had a bye last week after losing three straight games to Stony Point, Cedar Ridge and Hendrickson and have scored 14 total points in that span. They statistically have the worst offense in the district, scoring 15.4 points per game, while giving up 43.4 points per game. Sophomore Kyle Brown and senior Drew Cantu have combined for 1,532 passing yards and eight touchdowns with eight interceptions this season. The Dragons, meanwhile, have one of the most electric offenses in the district, scoring more than 46 points per game. Despite losing the last two games, Round Rock has scored a combined 91 points in that span. They're powered by the ground game, which racks up an average of 324.8 yards a game. The Dragons came out on top in the only two previous meetings in 2008 and 2009.