11-0 Viper football continues in playoffs

Vandegrift Vipers senior wide receiver Ryan Merriffeld (11) carries the ball at the VHS and Tomball Memorial game at Monroe Stadium on Nov. 16.

By SCOTT W. COLEMAN, Four Points News

Vandegrift’s best all-around performance of the season ended in a 35-14 victory over Tomball Memorial on Friday night, sending the Vipers to a second-round matchup with Klein Collins on Friday, Nov. 23.

The Vipers (11-0) broke big plays in the passing game and the running game, with quarterback Drew Dawson going 15-of-20 for 277 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for the game’s first score.

“(Dru) threw the ball well, he escaped pressure, he used his legs when he needed to,” said Sanders.

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Vandegrift’s offense was balanced, with running back Isaiah Smallwood positing his fifth 100-plus yard outing of the season, finishing with 177 and a touchdown.

“It opens everything up,” said Vandegrift coach Drew Sanders. “When you can throw, the defense starts to widen and then you can run, or vice versa.”

The offensive balance, and success, helped keep a potent Wildcats offense on the sidelines, while Vandegrift’s defense held Tomball Memorial to 280 total yards of offense.

In praise of his defense, Sanders pointed out that the Vipers had limited opponents’ scoring all season. Tomball Memorial was the ninth opponent this season to score 14 or fewer points against a stingy Vandegrift defense.

“This team didn’t get to 11-0 by accident,” said Sanders of his team’s confidence. Looking ahead at the 10-1 Klein Collins Tigers, the Vandegrift coach was full of praise. “We’re (going to play) a very strong 6A team… probably one of the better 6A teams… so this is a great matchup for us.”

Vandegrift has advanced to the second round of the playoffs seven of the last eight years, reaching the state semifinals in 2014 as a 5A program. Things have been a bit more difficult since the move to Class 6A in 2016, and the Vipers are looking for their first second-round win as a 6A program — something Sanders said is a key building block for the still-young program.

Vandegrift will play Klein Collins (10-1) at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23 at Waller ISD Stadium.

This is the first season the Vipers are playing in a newly-aligned Region 2, where most of the possible opponents will originate from the greater Houston and greater Dallas areas.

A win over Klein Collins would pit Vandegrift against either Prosper, a school in far-north Dallas, or east Texas powerhouse Longview, in the third round.