Vipers Impress Cedar Park To Open District Play – District 25-4A Week 4 Recap

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K.C. Grimes, Asst. Sports Editor

Friday, September 23rd marked the start of a series of games every team, especially in a district as competitive as 25-4A, will have hopes and deathly fears about. District play began weeks ago for some schools, but for most of central Texas it is just now starting to kick off. Up until the last guaranteed game of the season, Week 10, every point will be the deciding factor in who makes playoffs and who heads into offseason. In District 25-4A, only 4 of the 7 teams will see playoffs. Last year Vista Ridge, Marble Falls, Lake Travis and Cedar Park represented the district in playoffs, with all but Cedar Park being knocked out in Week 12 as the Timberwolves take the 4A-Division I state championship. To start out district, Week 4 saw matchups of Vista Ridge vs Marble Falls, Lake Travis vs Dripping Springs, and the long awaited battle between Cedar Park and Vandegrift.

The Vandegrift Vipers started off their 2nd season of district play hosting the Cedar Park Timberwolves at Monroe Stadium. After losing to the T’Wolves 3-59 last year, the Vipers hoped to continue their undefeated season with a big win against the 4A-Division I state quarter-finalists. Because the Viper’s current seniors were freshman at Cedar Park and played alongside the Timberwolves, Friday’s game was very emotional on both sidelines. To add to the emotions, it was also “Parent’s Week” for parents of the Vipers. Earlier in the week the players hosted a dinner for their mothers, during which each mom stood up and told what they loved most about their son, and each son told what they loved most about their mother. On Friday night, it was the father’s turn. The proud dads were invited into the field house before the game to talk with their sons and trade written letters, then listen to the pre-game speeches and strategizing by the Vandegrift football coaching staff.By 5:30 PM, Vipers and T’Wolves alike were already trickling into the stands. An hour before kickoff, Monroe Stadium was half full as traffic on 2222 became bumper to bumper as family, friends, and ordinary football fans now flooded into the stadium. By 8:00 PM, just minutes into the 1st quarter, over flow seats were being taken on the grass as the rowdy crowd got louder while Vandegrift and Cedar Park traded three-and-outs.

Halfway through the 1st quarter, senior Yuron Shears found a hole in the T’Wolve defense and placed the Vipers in the red zone for the first time of the night with a 78 yard run, before being tackled by Cedar Park senior defensive back Chris McCalla. With a short pass from senior Dakota Prukop to junior Dylan Hosek, the Vipers got on the scoreboard first. The following extra point attempt by senior Rand Fredrickson was blocked, leaving the score 6-0 Vipers.

On the following kickoff, senior Brandon Brown received the Viper’s own onside pooch kick, giving Vandegrift the possession and leaving Cedar Park in awe. Senior Brett Koster attempted but missed a 27 yard field goal, ending the Viper’s offensive drive.

Now in possession after the turnover, Cedar Park threw for a few yards before handing the ball off to senior running back Michael Bernardo for a 17 yard run that resulted in a Bernardo fumble, giving the ball back to the Vipers. Just 5 plays later, senior safety Travis Reim jumped in front of a Viper receiver to intercept the ball. The Vipers led out of the turnover-infested 1st quarter 6-0, and led defensively in the 2nd quarter, shutting down the T’Wolve offense, led by senior quarterback Alex Curl.

Late in the 2nd, senior Cameron Harris received a Cedar Park punt and ran it back for 70 yards, to the surprise of the T’Wolve special teams, setting up the Viper offense for Prukop to sneak right with a 3-yard touchdown run. Fredrickson ended the half with a successful extra point, bringing the Viper lead to 13-0.

On Cedar Park’s 2nd drive of the 2nd half, senior quarterback Brian Hogan was put in the game for the first time of the night, immediately running the ball into the end zone for a 10 yard touchdown, followed up with an extra point by junior running back Ethan Fry, which closed the gap to a Viper 13-7 lead. On the Timberwolve’s next possession, Hogan pitched to sophomore fullback Thomas Middleton, who ran in for a quick touchdown late in the 3rd quarter. With the extra point by Fry, Cedar Park led 13-14. Soon after, Middleton ran the ball again for a long 28 yard 1st down, setting Hogan up for a 3 yard Cedar Park touchdown straight through the Viper defense, widening the T’Wolf lead to 13-21.

 The 4th quarter was full of possession changes. The Viper defense was able to hold off the physically large Timberwolf offense, but the Viper offense wasn’t able to get further than their own 35-yard line. With only a minute left on the clock, Prukop was able to break free of Cedar Park’s defense and land a long pass to Brown for a 48-yard Viper touchdown. To tie the game, head football coach Drew Sanders was forced into a 2 point conversion attempt. Prukop reeled back dangerously far looking for a receiver, throwing deep in the end zone at the last second and received by junior Mark Giles, tying the game 21-21 as the crowd and sideline go wild. The Vandegrift Vipers, a 2nd year varsity school, managed to drag the 7th ranked in 4A Cedar Park Timberwolves into overtime.

In overtime for high school football, a coin is flipped to decide who is given the ball first. Each team is given one offensive drive and one timeout to score a touchdown or kick a field goal. If the score is tied after both teams get a turn on offense, the process is restarted until a team is victorious.Immediately starting and ending the Viper’s offensive drive, Shears faked a reverse and made it all 30 yards up field for a quick touchdown. After some confusion on the field, Koster was able to get the extra point in and gave Vandegrift an overtime lead of 28-21. Cedar Park answered strong on their drive with Hogan handing off to senior running back Nathan Harwell, who ran for 21 yards into the red zone. Middleton got the ball on the next play and charged through the Viper defensive line for a Cedar Park touchdown. With a call from Cedar Park head football coach Chris “Go For 2” Ross, the T’Wolves lined up to win or lose. Middleton received the handoff and pushed through his own offense to get into the end zone, ending the game and chalking it up as a 28-29 win for Cedar Park.

Prukop and Shears led the Viper offense in yardage with 132 passing yards and 137 rushing yards, respectively.

Down the road, the Lake Travis Cavaliers hosted the Dripping Springs Tigers as their district opener. The Cavs started out slow, giving the Tigers a safety due to a bad snap, but soon woke up and closed the half 23-2, quickly dominating Dripping Springs. Junior quarterback Baker Mayfield, junior wide receiver Zach Austin and sophomore running back Varshaun Nixon led Lake Travis with multiple touchdowns each. Mayfield finished with 224 passing yards and 59 yards rushing, with 3 touchdowns total. Final score was 54-16.

 The Vista Ridge Rangers hosted the Marble Falls Mustangs, looking to improve the look on their season with a district win. With a quick touchdown in the 1st quarter, the Ranger offense, led by senior quarterback Blake Estes, got the necessary points on the board to secure a win for Vista Ridge. Throughout the rest of the game, each defense shut the opposing offense down, not allowing any points and very minimal yard advantage. The Rangers defeated the Mustangs 6-0.

Statistic of the Week: Lake Travis’ junior Baker Mayfield leads District 25-4A in passing yards with 1305 total yards, followed by Vista Ridge’s senior Blake Estes with 840 yards and Vandegrift’s own senior Dakota Prukop with 792 yards.