HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Cedar Ridge, Vandegrift prepared for physical district opener

The Vipers enter district play at 2-0, while the Raiders are 1-1 on the year

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Cedar Ridge and Vandegrift are ready to get physical. 

The Raiders and Vipers face off for the first time ever in the first game of District 13-6A play Friday night at 7 p.m. at Monroe Stadium. In the last five seasons, Cedar Ridge has 46 wins, while Vandegrift has 45. 

“To me, they’re really similar to Cedar Park in that they’re really physical on defense and they run they have a physical, tough running back,” Cedar Ridge head coach Sam Robinson said. “That just fits their style, they’re just a tough team.”

Cedar Ridge lost to Temple in the first week of the season but rebounded with a win against Cedar Park last Friday night in a rain-delayed game. Vandegrift also beat the Timberwolves before topping Killeen Ellison last week. 

“We’ll be ready. We respect Cedar Ridge,” Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said. “They are a quality program and they have a good tradition in a short amount of time. It’ll be a good game, but I think the Vipers will perform well.”

Neither coach says the common win against Cedar Park has much to say about the outcome of this week’s game. The Raiders beat the Timberwolves by six points, while the Vipers won by 14 in the opener. 

One thing that has stood out to Sanders through two games is his offensive line. Other than his son, Matthew, the entire group is made up of new variety starters. 

They have allowed the Vipers’ offense to flourish. 

Junior quarterback Dru Dawson has thrown for 283 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions while receiver Trey Mongauzy has 11 catches for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back Isaiah Smallwood leads the team with 204 yards and a score on the ground. 

“I have been very pleased with the offensive line,” Sanders said. “They’ve come together and started to figure it out. Our pass protection has been solid and I’m impressed.”

They’ll go up against a Cedar Ridge defensive line that Robinson considers the strength of the defense, led by all-district tackle Edgerrin Dillard-Williams, who is tied for the team lead with 18 tackles this season. 

“He’s a good player and he will stress our protections,” Sanders said. But we have gone against very good defensive lines. That’s the strength of Cedar Park’s defense and that was the strength of the Ellison defense too.”

The Raiders had the best defense in the district a season ago, giving up just 18.2 points per game. But they have allowed an average of 36.5 in a much smaller sample size of two games this season. 

Robinson said the group is still growing. 

“We think our defensive line is playing really well,” Robinson said. “We’re happy with the line, but our linebackers are getting better and our secondary is still giving people easy yards, so we’re going to have to make that a little better.”

He said the win against Cedar Park last week proved Cedar Ridge had a lot of fight, especially on the defensive side when the Raiders had two goal-line stands to prevent any comeback late in the game. 

Following Friday’s tilt, the Vipers travel to face another solid defensive team in Hendrickson and follow that up at home against Vista Ridge. The Raiders play host to Leander next Friday and then meet up with Stony Point. 

But it’s still one week at a time. 

“Vandegrift is new to the district, but we know they’re good and used to playing in big-time games,” Robinson said. “Everybody wants to be 1-0 in district and since they got put in our district, we knew this would be a big game. We’re excited.”

Other Games: 

San Angelo Central at Cedar Park

Gupton Stadium, Cedar Park

Friday, 7 p.m.

Both San Angelo Central and Cedar Park have won double-digit games every season dating back to 2013, with the Timberwolves’ streak racing all the way back to 2010. But the two teams are headed in opposite directions this season. The Bobcats are undefeated, boasting wins against Killeen Shoemaker and Del Rio, while the Timberwolves are 0-2 for the first time since 2012 — they went on to win the state title that year — after losses to Vandegrift and Cedar Ridge. This will be the first meeting between the perennial playoff contenders. 

Vista Ridge at McNeil

Dragon Stadium, Round Rock

Friday, 7 p.m.

Both the Rangers and Mavericks will be looking to get district plays started on the right foot when they face off for the first time in nearly a decade. Vista Ridge enters district play at 0-2, losing to Rouse and Killeen and being outscored 77-19 in the process, while McNeil enters on a semi-positive note as it downed Glenn in a weather-shortened district finale last Friday night. McNeil won both other meetings in 2008 and 2009. Thailand Mayberry leads the Rangers offense with 197 rushing yards and one touchdown, while Jordan Kerley is up to 299 yards and four touchdowns for the Mavericks this season. 

Stony Point at Leander 

Bible Stadium, Leander

Friday, 7 p.m.

Stony Point has come out of the gate strong with wins against Killeen and Harker Heights to start the season. Leander has also shown its new, slowed down offensive style is working with a season-opening win against Weiss and a loss to Pflugerville in Week 2, as the Lions have combined for more than 600 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground in those two games. The Tigers have also relied heavily on the ground game, rushing for 241 yards and four touchdowns in their 45-22 win against Harker Heights last Friday. Stony Point leads the all-time series 6-3 and has beaten Leander the last two seasons in non-district play. 

Hendrickson at Westwood

Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex

Friday, 7 p.m.

The Westwood offense hasn’t skipped a beat as the Warriors have shown they still aren’t afraid to put up points in non-district play. They averaged more than 40 points a game in wins against East View and Austin High, but face a much stiffer test when they host Hendrickson. The Hawks have only had one district game after last week’s game against Smithson Valley at The PField was canceled due to lightning. They demolished Texarkana Texas 56-7 in the season opener. The Hendrickson defense surrendered just 23 points a game last season and brought back many key playmakers. The Warriors have so far proven their offensive skills this season, but it might come down to that side of the ball in this matchup. 

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