Vandegrift has hit a second-round wall in its first two seasons in Class 6A.
Boosted by the first undefeated season in school history, the Vipers have a prime opportunity to break down that wall when they take on Klein Collins in the Area round Friday at 1 p.m. at Waller ISD Stadium.
“This is what we set our entire goals around,” Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said. “It’s about getting to the next level as a team. We are thankful that we’ve done good, but we want to be great. We’ve been solid, but we want to be excellent. The first step is getting to the third round.”
In their first two seasons in 6A, the Vipers playoff run finished exactly the same. They beat San Antonio Johnson in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Cibolo Steele in the second round.
Vandegrift has had a different attitude the entire season and has won in almost every possible fashion both away from home and at Monroe stadium.
Klein Collins presents a huge challenge in stopping four-star, Texas A&M-committed running back Isaiah Spiller, who has rushed for 1,343 yards and 16 touchdowns this season for an offense that averages more than 250 rushing yards and 31 points a game.
“They go by their running game, and our biggest challenge will be finding a way to stop him,” Sanders said. “Defensively, they are extremely quick and very big up front, so it will be a challenge to be able to do what we do. But that’s why it’s a second-round playoff game.”
The Tigers’ defense isn’t too shabby, either, boating holding teams to a district-best 9.8 points per game.
But an even-keeled Vandegrift offense has been just as potent. Running back Isaiah Smallwood has rushed for 1,199 yards and 15 touchdowns this season and had his fifth 100-plus yard outing of the season, finishing with 177 and a touchdown in the opening-round win over Tomball Memorial.
Junior quarterback Dru Dawson finished 15-of-20 passing for 277 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for a touchdown.
“I thought it was one of our best offensive games, so that was really exciting,” Sanders said. “And on defense, we did a good job of stopping the run. So I’d just like to see continued improvement.”
The winner will face off against either Prosper, a school in far-north Dallas, or east Texas powerhouse Longview, in the third round.
Klein Collins was a state finalist in 2016 and fell in the third round game after going undefeated in district play a season ago.
Those type of deep playoff runs are what the Vipers are hoping to consistently get, and this season has been a step in the right direction.
“My whole team makes me feel confident because we’ve found a way to win every game against really good opponents,” Sanders said. “They’re serious about their work and they’re serious about trying to achieve something.”