By ZACH SMITH, Four Points News
Even if the Vandegrift sideline was feeling uneasy after three quarters on Friday night, head coach Drew Sanders never lost faith.
The Vipers scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and rallied to beat Bridgeland 14-13 at Monroe Stadium in the bi-district round of the playoffs, their eighth straight win in the opening round of the playoffs.
“I’m impressed with their fight, I always am,” Sanders said. “We’re never out of a game, and we proved it once again. We’re happy to celebrate with a gold ball.”
Vandegrift quarterback Dru Dawson was perfect in the fourth quarter and finished 12-for-17 passing for 160 yards, and tossed touchdowns to Blake Youngblood and Trey Mongauzy on their final two drives.
“Our team shines in the biggest moments,” Dawson said.
All-State linebacker Jax McCauley blocked an extra point that turned out to be the difference in the game, and the Vipers’ defense finished with seven stops on fourth down.
The Vipers (11-0) get a rematch in the Area Round when they host Klein Collins (10-1) next Friday, Nov. 22 at Ed W. Monroe Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. Vandegrift won 28-21 in double overtime last season to advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since jumping up to class 6A.
Bridgeland controlled the clock in the first half, running 49 plays and gaining 244 yards with nine first downs. By contrast, Vandegrift ran just 14 plays for 77 yards and three first downs, most of which came on passes of 17 and 40 yards on the last two plays of the half.
The Bears scored on the second drive of the game, and again with 10 seconds left in the first half.
The Vipers’ struggles on offense continued in the third quarter as they went three and out on both possessions. But their defense continued to flex, stopping the Bears deep on two straight drives.
“We made some second-half adjustments,” McCauley said. “Coach Sanders talked to us in the locker room about what needed to do better, and the defense dug down deep and found a way to stop them.”
Dawson was a perfect 5-for-5 passing down the stretch for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns, both 29-yard strikes.
“I’m not sure there’s one moment that changed it,” Sanders said. “We’re never out of a game. Defensively, still being able to stop them and then all of a sudden, the offense kind of got rolling like we know they can.”
Vandegrift has won 23 of its last 24 games, back-to-back district titles and seven consecutive and eight overall bi-district titles. The Vipers have been in close games that needed fourth-quarter rallies or overtime.
Long story short, they’ve won just about every way possible, and Friday was just another example of that versatility.
“It’s good to have that experience because it builds a great team having to face a little bit of adversity,” McCauley said. “We were used to that. This team never quits, and that’s what I love about this group, we keep fighting until the very end.”