The Vandegrift players have known since the first week of the season they had a chance to be special.
Fans brought cardboard cutouts of Vandegrift Vipers players to hang on the fence behind the Vandegrift sideline during a high school football playoff game between Vandegrift and Klein Collins at Waller ISD Stadium on Friday, Nov. 23, 2018 in Waller, TX.
The Vipers beat rival Cedar Park for the second time in school history, went undefeated for the first time ever and won the District 13-6A title. They advanced to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since becoming a Class 6A school with an overtime win last week.
“Confidence is pretty high,” senior Reece Watsons said. “Especially after the Cedar Park game, we knew this team was really legit. Having all our athletes and especially the seniors playing together since we were little and having that chemistry on both offense and defense, it’s a great feeling.”
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Next up for the Vipers is another undefeated team in Longview, which is ranked No. 2 in THSCA Coaches’ poll. The Lobos trounced Prosper 63-17 in the Area Round last Saturday night.
“We’ve already made it the furthest we have in 6A, so it’s about playing with all we’ve got,” senior offensive lineman Matt Sanders said. “We know they’re a good team, they’re ranked high for a reason. But we’re scheming for them and it’s going to be a good game and we’re not just going to roll over for them.”
Vandegrift needed double overtime to outlast Klein Collins in the Area Round at Waller ISD Stadium last week.
The Vipers were held to under 100 rushing yards, but Dru Dawson threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns and Trey Mongauzy caught 11 passes for 175 yards and two scores, including the game-winning touchdown in the second extra period.
Defensively, the Vipers came away with two interceptions, a massive sack on 4th down during the first overtime period and held Klein Collins’ running back Isaiah Spiller — a Texas A&M commit — to 153 yards and two touchdowns, most of which came in the second half.
The Longview offensive attack poses another massive threat, averaging more than 53 points, 324 rushing yards and 287 receiving yards each game.
Quarterback Haynes King has thrown for 2,721 yards and 33 touchdowns with just one interception while receiver Kamden Perry has 1,342 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns on the year.
“It’s just about doing our job,” Watson said. “Our coaches come up with a game plan every week and we’ve done it every week. We watch a lot of film and learn the weaknesses of individual players and just go from there.”
But the Vipers’ attack isn’t too shabby either.
A much more evened approach, Vandegrift has scored more than 30 points a game and averaged just under 200 rushing and receiving yards each time out.
Sanders said he especially likes to run the ball, and having a big running back like Isaiah Smallwood to block for makes it even more enjoyable. The senior rusher is up to 1,268 yards and 11 scores this year.
“Isaiah is a warrior,” Sanders said. “He truly battles for our guys. He runs straight at you and he runs around you so just having a back like is great for an offensive line because we know he’ll play hard for us and we’ll play for him. We’ve become a strong unit.”
The Vandegrift sideline never thinks its out of a game. Last week was the second overtime win after beating Cedar Ridge with an overtime field goals in the first game of district play this season.
Sanders said the team know when plays need to be made and can execute no matter the game or situation.
“We have some stuff in place where I think we’re going to keep playing like we’ve been and we can drive on them,” Sanders said. “It’s a lot of fun. Especially your senior year when you’re able to leave your mark. It’s been a wild ride.”
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