By ZACH SMITH, Hill Country News
The Vandegrift Vipers are the Austin American-Statesman’s football team of the week this week after VHS shut out the Timberwolves 17-0 in the first game of the season at Monroe Stadium on Aug. 30.
Drew Sanders has been on the sidelines for every step of the rivalry between Vandegrift and Cedar Park. He remembers getting beat by quite a bit, time and time again.
As the announcer proclaimed after Friday night’s season opener, ‘little brother has grown up.’
For the last decade, local Leander ISD students have been going to Vandegrift but before that, they went to Cedar Park HS so many families in the community have ties to both schools.
After opening last year with a win over Cedar Park, it’s the first time Vandegrift has won back-to-back games in the 10-year rivalry.
“That drives me and motivates me that we can get to a state championship level too,” said Sanders, Vandegrift head coach. “They’re a great program, and anytime you beat a great program, it shows you’re making strides. I’m proud of our guys that they show up no matter who is on the other side of the field and they believe they can win.”
At the Aug. 30 game, junior Kaleb Lewis had a pair of interceptions for the Vipers on defense.
Vandegrift senior quarterback Dru Dawson completed 11 of his 16 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Senior Trey Mongauzy caught nine passes for 112 yards and a score. Junior running back Bowen Lewis carried the ball 17 times for 106 yards and one touchdown.
Cedar Park junior Ryder Hernandez finished 8-of-19 passing for 108 yards. Junior receiver Gunnar Abseck caught three passes for 64 yards and Brock Johnson had 37 receiving yards on three receptions. The Timberwolves had 30 combined rushing yards.
“Offensively, every time we got anything positive going, we’d have a bad snap or a penalty and kind of shoot ourselves in the foot,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “Defensively, we played pretty good. We left them out on the field good. (Vandegrift) is a good offensive team.”
Sanders was especially proud that last week Vandegrift pulled off a program sweep over Cedar Park, winning both junior varsity and freshman games in addition to the Aug. 30 shutout. The Timberwolves scored one offensive touchdown across all levels.
Vandegrift opened the scoring with a 31-yard field goal late in the first quarter. The Vipers scored on their next drive when Mongauzy got in behind the Cedar Park defense, and Dawson hit him for a 59-yard score.
The Timberwolves’ offensive struggles continued in the first half, as they only finished with three first downs and failed to cross midfield. The Vipers came away with an interception and a fumble recovery – by junior linebacker Hunter Ross – the first half.
“My defense surprised even me (Friday) night because we replaced a lot of guys,” Sanders said. “For us to come out and play like that is a total belief in our system. They got no dumb penalties (Friday) night.”
The Timberwolves had their best drive of the game to start the fourth quarter. Cedar Park linebacker George Lovell picked off Dawson with just under 10 minutes to go. The Timberwolves converted a fourth down and a fake punt to get into the red zone for the first time.
But Kaleb Lewis sealed it with an interception in the back of the end zone with five and a half minutes to play.
Bowen Lewis ended things with a bang when he broke a 54-yard touchdown run with under three minutes to go.
Vandegrift had a historic season last year, going undefeated during the regular season and winning the District 13-6A title outright for the first time in school history. The Vipers made it to the third round of the playoffs, the first trip past the second round since jumping up to Class 6A.
The Vipers wrap up the non-district season this week in Killeen against Ellison before jumping into District 13-6A play against Cedar Ridge on Sept. 13.Follow @ByZachSmith and @HCNSports on Twitter and Instagram for the latest in local sports.