Vista Ridge had one of the toughest closing stretches in the state of Texas.
The Rangers faced eventual state champions Lake Travis and Westlake in the final two games of the season and lost by a combined score of 115-7. They snuck into the playoffs and nearly upset San Antonio Churchill on the road in the first round.
“That’s a tough stretch those last two football games,” head coach Rodney Vincent said. “The guys got back up off the mat and fought like they did against Churchill. The things we teach them with the intangibles and the character development showed up.”
In the playoff game against Churchill, Vista Ridge took a 21-14 lead after the first quarter, highlighted by a 75-yard kick return by Samuel Waldum on the Rangers’ opening kickoff. They continued their first-half dominance in the second quarter and went into the break leading 31-24.
Churchill scored the first 10 points of the second half before Taute found Pittman for a 27-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to give the Rangers their final lead. The Chargers scored with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and got some help, including a missed interception and a fumble negated by an offsides call, to hang on for the win.
“We had a lot of lettermen that graduated off that semifinal team, so the biggest thing was just our experience level,” Vincent said. “We opened up the season against Flour Bluff with a lot of guys that had their first-ever Friday night experience.”
Junior Jacob Taute led the team through the air and on the ground, passing for 1,766 yards and 13 touchdowns and carrying the ball 101 times for 369 yards and eight scores. Aiden Florez had 342 yards and two touchdowns and Jamil Pittman had 327 and two touchdowns this season.
Waldum led the receiving corps, catching 39 passes for 492 yards and five touchdowns. Ryan Landrum caught 38 passes for 549 yards and two touchdowns, and Pittman had 488 receiving yards and two scores.
Defensively, three players had more than 100 tackles, led by senior Blake Harrison with 126. Caleb Welch was second with 109 tackles and Kevin Bastow finished with 106. Noah Hughes led the secondary with four interceptions and a fumble recovery and Lawrence Asiedu had four interceptions.
Taute and Pittman were the only two Rangers to be named first-team All-District. Offensive lineman Sean Freeman, tight end Johnathan Travis, defensive back Caleb Welch, defensive end Christian Boyd, linebackers Kevin Bastow and Blake Harrison and punter Noah Hughes were named second-team All-District.
“We had some adversity with some injuries,” Vincent said. “Our No. 1 offense wasn’t healthy until midway through the season when we faced Hays. So we had to battle through all of that. We were able to get a couple district wins that got us into a position to fight for a playoff spot.”
A playoff berth next season would be the fourth straight for Vista Ridge and its fifth time since 2010.
But Vincent has higher goals for his team.
“Because of injuries and depth, we had a lot of younger players play this year,” he said. “They had the opportunity to make the playoffs and you hope they’re going to want more. The goal is to make the playoffs and continue on.”