Vandegrift Remains In The Running As Playoffs Near – District 25-4A Week 8 Recap


KC Grimes, Asst. Sports Editor

High schools around Texas wrapped up Week 8 on Friday, October 21st with some decisive games in District 25-4A. At home, Lake Travis secured their playoff slot with a win over Rouse, removing the Raiders’ playoff chance. Dripping Springs also secured a playoff slot with a shutout against Marble Falls, allowing Marble Falls only one more loss before they lose their chance at a slot as well. Marble Falls still has to get through Lake Travis and Vandegrift in order to secure their slot, while Vandegrift only needs to beat Rouse and Marble Falls. After Vandegrift’s win over Vista Ridge, taking the Rangers out of the race, the Vipers are now “tied” with Marble Falls. If both Vandegrift and Marble Falls get a single loss each, then the slot will be given to the team with the most points scored in district play of the 3 or 4 times with 4 losses. Last year, the Vipers were in the same situation, except they lost to Vista Ridge and beat Rouse by a mere field goal. Because of this, Vandegrift needed to not only beat Marble Falls, but win by a margin of 27 points in order to make district.

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 After losing to the Vista Ridge Rangers last year 16-14, the Vandegrift Vipers hoped to not only make a statement but also to stay in the playoff race as available spots diminished. Vista Ridge hosted the Vipers at Gupton Stadium in Leander, Texas on the Rangers’ Senior Night, drawing a large, but still smaller-than-expected, crowd. Having faced the first cold front of the season during the week, it was surprisingly warm with calm winds as the teams prepared for kick off.

 After a slight delay due to an injury on the field before the game, the Vipers kicked off their first of three must-win district games. Holding strong and allowing only one penetrating but short-lived run, the Viper defense forced Vista Ridge into punting. As a result of the punt and some Ranger-favored bouncing, Vandegrift began their first offensive drive from their own one yard line. Senior Yuron Shears helped the Vipers out of a tight spot with a 60-yard run up field, starting strong with his third longest run of the season. Out of danger, senior Dakota Prukop made a well-placed throw under pressure to junior Tristan Paffe for a 42-yard Viper touchdown. With a successful extra point by senior Rand Fredrickson, the Vipers set the score 7-0.

 Led by senior quarterback Blake Estes, the Rangers slowly made forward progress from their own 22-yard line to the Vipers 15-yard line. Unable to go further, Vista Ridge sophomore kicker P J Grady completed a field goal for the Rangers to set the score 7-3.

 After a strong return by senior Cameron Harris, Vandegrift started their second drive with good field position on their own 44 yard line. After a false start against the Vipers, Prukop connected with senior Brandon Brown for a 61-yard touchdown. Following an extra point by Fredrickson, the Vipers increased their lead to 14-3 as the first quarter ends. After forcing a punt, Vandegrift started from their own 22 yard line and made quick progress toward the end zone. With a handoff from Prukop, Shears ran 36 yards into the end zone only to fumble and cause a touchback, giving Vista Ridge the ball back.

 Once the Vipers forced another punt from Vista Ridge, they managed to drive from their own 21 yard line to the Ranger’s 16 yard line with multiple short plays by Shears, Prukop and Brown. From the 16 yard line, Shears ran the ball in for yet another touchdown to cap off a long drive. With a successful PAT by Fredrickson, the Vipers led 21-3. After receiving the kickoff by senior Brett Koster, the Rangers needed only one play to get their own Estes to run the ball in for a 55-yard touchdown, closing the gap in the score 21-10 after a successful extra point from junior kicker Chris Nichols.

Vandegrift received the ball, then answered the Ranger’s points with a 41-yard touchdown reception by Paffe, extending the Viper lead to 28-10 and putting the third consecutive touchdown on the board in 44 seconds. After forcing a 3 n’out, the Vipers got the ball back with a minute left on the clock. Paffe carried the ball to the Ranger’s 35 yard line, followed by a sideline catch by Brown to put the Vipers within seven yards of the end zone. Fredrickson attempted a field goal from the hold of senior Garrison Gregory, but the ball was knocked down and picked up by a Ranger lineman as the clock ticked out. The Vipers went into the second half with a total of 429 offensive yards, more than any other half this season. 156 of these yards came from carries by Shears.

 The Vipers started the second half with tough field position at their own 12 yard line, but managed to eventually reach the Ranger’s five yard line with short but effective plays by junior Dylan Hosek along with Prukop and Shears. Vandegrift’s nearly nine minute drive ended on an unsuccessful fourth and goal attempt by Shears, turning the ball over on the Ranger’s five yard line. Vandegrift quickly forced a punt from Vista Ridge and took possession on their own 31 yard line with two minutes left in the third quarter. On the following play, a Vista Ridge defensive back went down after being hit hard on the sideline. Within minutes the Ranger was spine-boarded as a precautionary measure and stretchered off the field by on-site medical personnel.

 The Vista Ridge defense held strong against the Viper offense, turning the ball over, but they were unable to penetrate the Viper defense as juniors Kyle Gruber and Kyle Elliot kept heavy pressure on Ranger quarterback Estes. Junior James Hallonquist got his first interception of the season off a throw from Estes, giving the Vipers possession. Soon after a long reception by Brown from Prukop, the Vipers assumed a victory formation and ran the clock down for a required victory of 28-10.

With no score in the second half of a hard fought and hard hitting game, both teams seemed to slowly lose their intensity. Nonetheless, Vandegrift led the game offensively by a landslide, totaling 617 overall yards. Shears ran for 210 of the total yards, and Prukop ran for 108 yards and passed for 248 yards. In Week 9, the Vipers will play Rouse at their own Monroe Stadium, another must-win ball game.

 The Rouse Raiders hosted the Lake Travis Cavaliers in what turned out to be a game of surprising and not-so-surprising parts. Lake Travis was expected to win by a wide margin, which they succeeded in, but Rouse was able to get three touchdowns on the board, one in the first half and the rest in the second. This showed how, similar to previous weeks, the Cavalier defense started to get tired around the end of the third quarter if not sooner. The Cavs had six touchdowns in the first half and another three touchdowns and one field goal in the second half, boasting an offense led by junior quarterback Baker Mayfield with a win of 19-62 over Rouse. The Raiders had managed 227 offensive yards throughout the game, mostly from junior quarterback Justin Pelt.

The Dripping Springs Tigers traveled over to Marble Falls, Texas to face the Mustangs in a must-win game. With 286 total offensive yards, the Tigers controlled the tempo of the game as expected, shutting out the Mustangs 17-0 with one touchdown in the first half and two in the second. Junior quarterback Kyle Johnson led the Dripping Springs offense with help from senior running back Omar Pereya, who accumulated 105 yards over 20 carries.

District 25-4A Playoff Projections:

1st – Lake Travis

2nd – Cedar Park

3rd – Dripping Springs

4th – Vandegrift