By ZACH SMITH, Four Points News
As soon as the final whistle blew Friday night at Gupton Stadium, the far wall of white made up of Vandegrift players, students and fans exploded.
The Vipers beat Leander ISD rival Cedar Park 29-13 for the second time in the nine-year history of the rivalry. Vandegrift last beat the Timberwolves in 2014, the last time Cedar Park lost a regular season game.
“They talk a lot about Black Rain, but I’m very impressed with the Vandegrift defense tonight,” Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said. “Our defense showed up to play. We’ve got a fantastic defensive line and we’ve got six guys that can play at a high level and we rotated them all night. We didn’t get tired.”
Making his first start, Viper junior quarterback Dru Dawson completed nine of 14 passes for 110 yards and a trio of touchdowns and rushed for another 25 yards. Receiver Trey Mongauzy caught two passes for two touchdowns.
The dynamic rushing duo of Isiah Smallwood and Brendan Bennett combined for 150 yards on 32 carries. Bennett also caught three passes, including the final touchdown of the game that put that game away.
For Cedar Park, Carson Neel caught four passes for 40 yards and two touchdowns and 26 yards on three carries. Junior running back Jonathan Stockwell carried ball nine times for 33 yards.
Senior Ryan Fiala started the game at quarterback for the Timberwolves and finished with 60 yards through the air with two interceptions.
Sophomore Ryder Hernandez replaced him on the final play of the first half and finished out the game to give Cedar Park a bit more mobility, throwing for 101 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 20 yards.
“They showed a little different wrinkle on defense,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “With one scrimmage, it’s hard to get a good read on them. We didn’t adjust fast enough and missed some opportunities to make plays. They’re a good defensive team and Coach Sanders and his staff do a great job.”
Cedar Park’s best drive of the first half was the first one of the game. Fiala completed passes of 32 and 27 yards to Will Udoye, but the Timberwolves turned the ball over on downs deep in Vandegrift territory.
Vandegrift defensive back Timmy Hanna came down with the first interception of the half midway through the first quarter.
Dawson hit Trey Mongauzy on a 10-yard crossing route for the opening touchdown on the first drive of the second quarter and Reese Watson returned another interception 22 yards to double the Vipers’ lead three plays later.
“It was absolutely amazing (for momentum),” Watson said. “I knew that it would set up our offense and give them confidence and give the rest of our team confidence.”
Mongauzy caught his second touchdown of the game for Vandegrift after a Cedar Park mistake gave the Vipers a short field.
The Timberwolves moved the ball better in the second half and Hernandez hit Neel after rolling out to his right early in the fourth quarter. Cedar Park scored again on a pass from Hernandez to Neel late in the game.
“When you get opportunities, you’ve got to take advantage of them,” Abseck said. “We missed some balls that we should catch and make some plays for out quarterbacks. We didn’t do a great job of protection or running the ball well in the first half. Those things go together.”
Cedar Park travels to face off against defending Class 6A state semifinalist Cedar Ridge Thursday night at 7 p.m., while Vandegrift hosts Killeen Ellison Friday night at 7 p.m. at Monroe Stadium in the final non-district tune-up game.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Watson said. “But this team can go really, really far.”