Vista Ridge went back to basics this offseason.
After narrowly missing out on the playoffs last season, the Rangers embraced the core values of family, character, toughness and relentless effort that has brought them so much success in the past.
“The Ranger teams that had the best chance of being successful, played extremely hard and were disciplined and that’s where we’re headed,” Vista Ridge head coach Rodney Vincent said. “I’m excited about that. This group wants to get back to some of those fundamentals.”
The Rangers are part of a massive nine-team district which includes Leander ISD rivals Leander and Vandegrift, Hendrickson, and all five schools from Round Rock ISD. Six of those nine schools made the playoffs last year.
Vista Ridge hasn’t seen some of the teams since 2009, adding an extra wrinkle in preparation.
Vincent said early on, when he doesn’t know what to expect, is exactly why the Rangers need to focus on themselves. Only once the season is underway does he fully shift focus to the film from other teams.
“Having a nine-team district that is as solid as ours is might be the biggest challenge ahead of us,” he said. “When you start looking at nine teams that are all really good, you can start looking at things you don’t need to. We need to look at us.”
The Rangers had one of the hardest closing stretches to a season last year and fell against Vandegrift, Hays, Lake Travis and Westlake in court straight weeks to miss out on the postseason.
Running back Thailand Mayberry sets up to be the lead back with quarterback Drew Cantu set to take over under center. Cantu had his chances as the backup last year, appearing in seven games.
Jamil Pittman is a big loss at receiver, but Nick Podolak, Bryce Jones and Naequwan White are ready to step up and fill the void.
White will see time on both sides of the ball, serving as the most explosive member of the secondary with Kellen Janda and Canon Kromis at safety and Elijah Jones spending all of last year at corner as a sophomore.
“When my coach asks me to do something, I want to be able to do it,” White said. “I don’t feel added pressure because I know I can get the job done (on both sides of the ball).”
Oliver Marx and Darien Carter led the team with 86 and 78 tackles, respectively, with Luke Horne, Sebastian Barrett and Quin Holland helping to anchor the front seven. Alfredo Saenz came in late at linebacker last year and will be additional player to watch.
“I want to see a team that’s happy because a majority of us, this is our last year,” White said. “I’m a better player because coach told me to get in better shape and that’s what I worked on. I dedicated myself to play both ways.”
White, Cantu and the Rangers started further bonding as a unit in the spring with during the 7-on-7 tournament. Vista Ridge was the only team from Leander ISD who made it to the state tournament in College Station.
With just two non-district games against Rouse and Killeen to figure things out this season, that extra cohesion can make a big difference.
“The thing I love about this team is their chemistry,” Vincent said. “The leadership has been outstanding from December all the way until now. Those are the things that are going to be big down the road and even after football.”