HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Pittman shines as Vista Ridge holds off Leander

Rangers extend winning streak to three games, Lions searching for first win of season

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Jamil Pittman did a little bit of everything Friday night. 

The senior caught two touchdown passes, threw a touchdown, and returned an interception for a score to help Vista Ridge hold on to beat Leander 35-28 Friday night at Gupton Stadium.

“Our team made it easy for me to do my job,” Pittman said. “It was my offensive line and receivers, and especially the quarterback. And the defensive line was able to put pressure on the quarterback so I could get that pick.”

The 63-yard interception return gave Vista Ridge the lead early in the fourth quarter and was part of a 21-point run for the Rangers. 

“I definitely was baiting him,” Pittman said. “He fell right into the trap.”

Offensively, Pittman finished with six catches for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns, two rushes for 36 yards, and completed his only pass of the game, a 45-yard heave to Devin Walker after a backward pass. 

Jacob Taute threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns with 37 yards on the ground. Aside from Pittman, White was second on the team with 51 yards and a score while Joe Goodwin had 42 rushing yards. 

“Jamil is a captain, he’s on our leadership council and he works year-round at what he does,” Vista Ridge head coach Rodney Vincent said. “Guys that put that kind of time into it have a chance to be successful on Friday nights. He brings guys along with him.”

But Leander was in the game until the very end. 

Will Loofe threw a 23-yard touchdown to Ishmael Sanchez with just over a minute to go. Dalton Flowers recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Lions drove into Vista Ridge territory after a defensive pass interference call on 4th and long. Loofe’s pass to the end zone with four seconds left fell incomplete. 

Loofe finished with 190 yards through the air with one touchdown and two interceptions and ran for seven yards. Flowers caught three passes for 22 yards and Brennen Hansend carried the ball 15 times for 68 yards and Alex Hensley ran for 17 yards and a score.

“They were really physical tonight,” Leander head coach Tim Smith said. “They played with a lot of fire and fight and it came down to the last play. We’re just not allowed to make mistakes. The offense line is getting better and Loofe is getting better.”

Junior quarterback Rashad Carter, who has been out since the Lions’ Week 2 loss to Pflugerville, played sparingly on offense and finished with four rushes for five yards, but had a long touchdown run negated by a holding penalty.

Both teams struggled on offense in the first quarter, as neither scores and they each turned the ball over one time. Leander’s Chase Barrick recovered a fumble at the goal line on the first drive of the game and Ranger safety Dylan Leach intercepted a pass on the next drive. 

The scoring came fast and furious early in the second quarter.

Just three plays into the second quarter, Taute hits Pittman from 21-yards away for the first score of the game. But the Lions responded with a 95-yard kickoff return by Michael Jorgensen on the ensuing kickoff to tie the game. 

Taute and Pittman connected for the second time in the game on the next drive, scoring on a 43-yard pass. The first three touchdowns of the game spanned four plays and less than one minute of game time. 

Alex Hensley capped off an eight-play, 74-yard drive with a two-yard bust up the middle with under five minutes left in the half to tie the game at 14 points apiece. 

Leander scored on the first drive of the third quarter when Flowers capped off a nine-play, 62-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown catch. Vista Ridge again tied the game with Pittman’s pass to a wide-open Walker.

He returned the interception on the second play of the fourth quarter and Taute threw his second touchdown of the game to White in on the Rangers’ next drive to make it a two-score game. 

“I was proud of our defense getting an interception for a score and getting some momentum going,” Vincent said. “We were bending on defenses but not breaking. Our offense did a good job in the second half.”

Leander continues district play next week when it hosts Vandegrift at 7:30 p.m. before traveling to face Hays on Oct. 20. Vista Ridge has a bye next week and faces off on the road against the Vipers in two weeks. 

“This win just makes us stronger,” Pittman said. “I love the team we’re turning into. I can’t wait to see what kind of team we put out there against Vandy.”

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