Vandy rallies to snap Cedar Ridge's streak
Defending 13-6A champs had won 15 straight in district play.
District 13-6A, meet Vandegrift. The Vipers, in their first year aligned with the Hendrickson and Round Rock Class 6A schools, showed off the characteristics that Vandegrift’s previous district foes know well in a thrill- ing 17-14 overtime win over twotime defending district champion Cedar Ridge. Gritty. Resilient. Tough. Patient. The Vipers (3-0, 1-0) were all of that and more while rallying from a 14-0 deficit in the fourth quarter and winning in overtime on a 33-yard field goal by Tim Barney. The victory snapped Cedar Ridge’s 15-game winning streak in district play, and it served notice to the rest of the nine-team district that Vandegrift has the mettle to match up with any of the usual 13-6A favorites.
“We’re new to this district, but anyone who knows us knows that we’ll play tough,” Vandegrift coach Drew Sanders said. “We may not always win, but we’ll always hang around.”
That’s exactly what the Vipers did in a soggy slugfest at Monroe Stadium. Cedar Ridge’s defense dominated large stretches of the game, and running back Deuce Vaughn (191 yards from
scrimmage) and receiver Jaylen Ellis (104 yards receiving) spearheaded an offense that produced 383 yards. When Raiders quarterback Jalen Brown scooted in for a score from two yards out early in the fourth quarter, it appeared that Cedar Ridge (1-2, 0-1) would keep its district winning streak alive.
But Vandegrift had other ideas. The Vipers responded with a 12-play drive capped by a 2-yard run from senior tailback Isaiah Smallwood.
On the ensuing drive, Ellis drew a questionable personal foul on a blindside block that got him ejected and helped force a Cedar Ridge punt. Fueled by their sudden momentum, Vandegrift marched down the field and scored on a 10-yard run by Smallwood to force overtime.
“We just stayed patient, believing in the coaches and the game plan,” said Smallwood, who ran for 70 yards. “We’re the Vipers; we’re never out of the game.”
Without Ellis, the Raiders seemed rattled in overtime. Vandegrift sacked Brown twice to snuff their lone overtime possession, and the Vipers did just enough to get Barney into field-goal range.
Barney calmly split the uprights, triggering a wild celebration.
“He makes them in practice; I knew he’d make it in the game,” Smallwood said. “I wasn’t nervous at all.”
Vandegrift’s fans must have been plenty nervous in the first half. Cedar Ridge posted 220 yards of offense before the break, but the Raiders’ only score came when Ellis raced through the Viper secondary to haul in an uncontested 41-yard bomb from Brown less than three minutes into the game.
Vandegrift had more problems moving the ball against a stout Cedar Ridge defensive front led by ends Edge Dillard-Williams and Jimmy Esparza. Smallwood only had 35 yards rushing before halftime.
Overall, the Vipers had 123 yards of their 294 yards of offense in the first half.
But the Vipers stayed patient, stayed within striking distance and took advantage of the few errors Cedar Ridge made.
“We made some mistakes, and you can’t do that against a team like that,” Cedar Ridge coach Sam Robinson said. “(The Vipers) fought their butt off, and they weren’t going to go away.
“It’s going to be hard to go through this district without a loss. We obviously opened against a tough one, but there will be more . ... It’s over, and we have to move on.”
Cedar Ridge quarterback Jalen Brown fights for yardage in the first half against Vandegrift’s Jax McCauley on Friday night at Vandegrift High School stadium.