Historic Vandegrift season ends following loss to DeSoto in state championship

The players pose for one last picture in their gear on the fi eld together with their final trophy to add to their collection. KAYA KINSEY Vandegrift Voice

VHS cheer at the state title football game vs DeSoto on December 17 at AT&T Stadium. KAYA KINSEY Vandegrift Voice

By ZACH SMITH, Hill Country News

ARLINGTON — Vandegrift made a point to cement their legacy this season.

Consider it set in stone.

The Vipers advanced to the state title game for the first time in school history this season, falling 42-17 to DeSoto Saturday afternoon in the Class 6A Division II championship at AT&T Stadium.

“It’s been so amazing,” senior Oliver Yndo said. “It’s been such a wild ride. Sometimes it’s difficult to get up in the morning, but you look to your teammates and think, ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ They’ve gotten me through some tough times.”

Vandegrift made the jump to Class 6A in 2016. Two years later, in 2018, the Vipers went undefeated to win their first district title.

That season shifted expectations at Vandegrift.

Since then, they’ve won at least a share of five straight district titles and lost just two district games.

Now, the expectation has shifted again.

“Because of these (seniors) and their great effort and leadership, it’s not a pie in the sky type of idea to say we’re going to state,” Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said.

Junior Alex Foster led the Vandegrift defense with 18 tackles against DeSoto on Saturday.

Brayden Buchanan completed seven passes for 84 yards, while junior receiver Miles Coleman finished with five receptions for 60 to finish off the best receiving season in school history with 99 receptions and 13 touchdowns.

Senior running back Alex Witt capped off his high school career with 149 yards on 20 carries with a pair of rushing touchdowns. He finished the 2022 postseason with 687 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“Obviously, this game didn’t end the way we wanted to, but it was a tremendous year,” Buchanan said. “Nothing but love for the guys in the locker room. We definitely cemented our legacy and surpassed our previous standard.”

DeSoto racked up 614 yards of total offense, led by 187 yards and three touchdowns on the ground by sophomore running back Deondrae Riden.

Future Texas Longhorns Tre Wisner (six receptions, 135 yards, two touchdowns) and Johntay Cook (three receptions, 103 yards, one touchdown) led the air attack for the Eagles.

Just when it looked like DeSoto was going to march down the field on the first drive of the game, Isaiah Thompson recovered a fumble, the first play in a quarter filled with lockdown plays by the Vandegrift defense.

Hayden Arnold scored the first point of the game with a 36-yard field goal on the first snap of the second quarter, but it took the Eagles just three plays to respond as Texas commit Johntay Cook caught a 42-yard touchdown.

What was originally ruled an incomplete pass by Buchanan on the ensuing drive was overturned after video review. The Eagles extended their lead two plays later.

The Vipers had their own answer as Witt rushed for 57 yards on the next snap and finished off the drive with a 1-yard blast.

DeSoto upped the tempo as the half went along and scored its third touchdown of the second quarter with just over three minutes left in the half.

The Vipers opened up the second half with a scoring drive, and Witt carried the ball five times, including the 20-yard touchdown run.

The Eagles put the game away by scoring 21 unanswered points over the next three drives — two rushing touchdowns by Riden and a 62-yard reception by Wisner.

“It was like we could never get our footing,” Sanders said. “DeSoto did a great job of attacking and continuing to attack what they felt like they could do. I kind of got away from us at the end, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.”

Sanders is the only coach that the Vipers have ever known in their 14-year history, and he’s coached every player that’s worn a Vandegrift uniform.

When Vandegrift beat Katy on December 10 to reach the state title game, his phone was flooded with messages and calls, many from former players, some from the early days when the Vipers practiced in the Cedar Park High School weight room.

“We have great leadership, but what sets this team apart is that everyone kind of viewed themselves as some sort of leader,” Sanders said. “I love this team.”

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