Vandegrift at San Antonio Johnson
Heroes Stadium, San Antonio
Friday, Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m.
The last time Vandegrift faced off against San Antonio Johnson, the Vipers won a hard-fought bi-district playoff game 27-26 at Monroe Stadium on Nov. 11, 2016.
Then-quarterback Alex Fernandes rushed for a team-high 105 yards and Isaiah Smallwood scored his first playoff touchdown to cap off a stellar debut season on varsity in which Smallwood rushed for 586 yards and nine touchdowns to lead the team as a sophomore.
This year, it will be Smallwood who is among the playoff veterans returning to the postseason and looking to make his mark again as the Vipers hope to extend their season even further after last year’s disappointing second-round loss to eventual state runner-up Cibolo Steele.
Vandegrift rode a four-game winning streak into last week’s regular season finale against Lake Travis, falling 40-28 at home. The team finished 4-2 in District 25-6A and carries a 6-4 record into the postseason, led by Smallwood (950 yards, 17 touchdowns) and senior quarterback Justin Moore (2,213 yards and 21 touchdowns to just three interceptions).
Vandegrift’s offense has averaged 36.4 points per game this season, just better than Johnson’s 33.7 PPG average. However, Vandegrift has been a slow starting team all season, averaging just 8.4 points in the first quarter and increasing steadily to an average of 10.3 points in the fourth quarter.
Johnson, however, starts much faster — posting 10.5 points in the first quarter and declining to 5.6 PPG in the third quarter and 7.0 in the fourth.
That could give the Vipers an advantage, knowing they have the ability finish strong.
Vandegrift averages 237.7 passing yards and 392.3 total yards per game, besting Johnson in both categories. Jaguars quarterback Mike Chandler is the team’s leading rusher, averaging 70.4 yards a game, but a number of other backs combine for a 210-yard average per game — quite a bit more than Vandegrift’s 154.6 average.
Vandegrift’s defensive line should be the advantage in the game, as the Vipers have fared better against run-heavy teams most of the season.
A win on Friday would send the Vipers to a second-round playoff game for the fifth consecutive year. They’d face the winner of Friday’s bi-district game between San Antonio Brennan and Cibolo Steele.