By SCOTT W. COLEMAN, Four Points News
Senior quarterback Jamie Hudson threw for 416 yards and 5 touchdowns to lead the Vandegrift Vipers past Austin LBJ on Saturday afternoon and into the Class 5A, Division I state semifinals where the Vipers will meet Temple this Saturday at the Alamodome.
Hudson accounted for a total of 524 yards of Vandegrift’s 613 total yards of offensive production in the biggest win yet in the school’s brief history.
But it was the defense, yet again, that made the difference in a tough contest against the Jaguars, who were driven by the memory of a former player who lost his life in a tragic accident just before the postseason began.
“I can’t say enough about how impressed I am with our team, and especially our senior leadership,” said Vipers head coach Drew Sanders. “We had multiple big fourth down stops and consistently stopped them in the third quarter when our offense was struggling.”
After taking a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, Vandegrift surrendered a 46-yard touchdown run to LBJ’s speedy quarterback Avery Jackson midway through the opening period. Hudson completed his second touchdown pass of the game to give the Vipers 20-7 advantage going into the second quarter.
The Vipers and the Jags continued trading scores throughout the first half, with the Vipers holding onto a slim 26-21 margin at the break.
After the big plays of the first half, the defenses settled in early in the second half as the teams traded turnovers early in the third quarter, and both made big fourth down stops. Hudson connected with Paxton Segina for a huge 82-yard touchdown early in the fourth, but Jackson returned the favor just minutes later to bring the Jaguars back to within a touchdown of taking the lead.
On the ensuing possession, Vandegrift’s offense was continually placed in must-convert situations, including three third downs and a fourth and 11 that was one of the pivotal moments in the game.
“Our offense was clutch again… a huge fourth and 11 conversion late in the fourth quarter to put us up, and then another drive to run out the clock,” said Sanders.
Hudson would hit Alex Fernandes on that last scoring drive, putting Vandegrift up 40-28, but Jackson would again toss a touchdown pass to keep the Vipers’ lead at 5 points with less than three minutes remaining.
Vandegrift recovered the Jaguars’ onside kick attempt, and the offense picked up a critical third down to retain possession and allow the clock to tick away.
“We just played extremely hard,” Sanders said. “I always tell the team, good things happen to teams that play hard.”
The winner of Saturday’s semifinal game will meet either Tyler or Aledo — winner of four state titles in the last five years — in the Class 5A, Division I state championship game at noon on Saturday, Dec. 20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.