HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Getting back on track: Vista Ridge, Westwood look to rebound

The Rangers and Warriors meet up Friday night after lopsided losses in the first week of district play

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Vista Ridge and Westwood are both looking to rebound from lopsided losses last week. 

The Rangers lost to McNeil, while the Warriors dropped a lopsided Hendrickson. Both hope to get back in the win column when they face off against each other Friday at 7 p.m. at Gupton Stadium. 

“We feel like in the last three ballgames so much of what we have to get better at is us and not the opponent,” Vista Ridge head coach Rodney Vincent said. “We have been strictly focused on that. We improved in some areas, but we’ve got to fix some mistakes that you can’t have in big ballgames.”

The Rangers and Warriors have faced off the last two seasons, with Vista Ridge winning 49-3 a year ago and Westwood coming out on top 34-0 in 2016. 

“I would expect it to be a game just like it has been the last two years,” Wood said. “We have to stop their play action game. They’re rotating quarterbacks and they do a good job of disguising it. They get to the football really well. (Coach Vincent and I) used to work together and he’s a great motivator.”

Senior Drew Cantu and sophomore Kyle Brown have both played in all three games for the Rangers this year. Cantu has 248 yards and two touchdowns through the air with 123 rushing yards, while Brown has thrown for 209 yards passing and one rushing touchdown.  

Vincent said the versatility s not just at the quarterback position, but there are several positions on both offense and defense with guys rotating in and out, but it still comes down to not making mistakes. 

“We’ve become very competitive and we have guys that can bring things to the table,” he said. “We have guys that are splitting time or have strengths in certain areas and contributing on different schemes. That’s helped us improve.”

In the Rangers’ 49-21 loss to McNeil last week, the big play was their downfall. 

The Mavericks returned an interception for a touchdown on the first drive of the game and had three touchdowns of 50 plays or more. Vista Ridge turned the ball over seven times, including five on special teams. 

Still, Vincent saw improvement in the number of first downs the Rangers had and their ability to drive into the red zone easier than in past weeks. 

“Defensively, the biggest thing that I saw was coming out in the second half and playing with a lot of fire and emotion and being in the right spots against Killeen,” he said. “I saw improvement in the back end in the McNeil game. It’s a matter of putting it all together.”

The Warriors gave up touchdowns on the first eight possessions in their 64-14 loss to Hendrickson. In about two minutes, the Hawks scored 28 points and Westwood could never recover. 

“When those things happen, it’s not a true indication of who you are or what you’re capable of,” Wood said. 

Sophomore quarterback R.J. Martinez has adapted to his new starting role well, accounting for nine touchdowns in the first three games. But he’s been without his more experienced receiver in Matt Pravednikov the last two weeks due to a broken collarbone. 

He had 126 yards and a touchdown before suffering the injury in the Warriors’ season-opening win against East View. He’s still in a sling, but expects to be catching balls soon and hopes to return to the field in a little more than a month. 

“Not being able to play stinks, but I’m going to do whatever I can help the team,” Pravednikov said. “I think we’re ready to show the teams in area that the Westwood team that played last week has a lot to prove. We’re not the same team.”

Westwood has four sophomores playing significant time on the varsity squad, and Wood said he’s happy with their progress through the first chunk of the season. 

“Our youth and inexperience is moving forward,” Wood said. “I’m really excited to see what the future holds.”

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