HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

Vandegrift All-State lineman Matt Sanders signs with Mary Hardin-Baylor

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Matt Sanders didn’t look like much like a football player the first time he stepped on the Vandegrift campus.

A kid that started out with a just a little bit more than 100 pounds on his frame signed turned into a team captain and dominant all-district player on the Vipers’ offensive line, helping them win a district title and advance to the regional round of the playoff last season. 

Last Wednesday, he signed to play football at Mary Hardin-Baylor, joining fellow football players Isaiah Smallwood (West Texas A&M) and Varun Kalyanapuram (Carnegie Mellon), baseball player Kyle Maysonave (Le Tourneau) and swimmer Kevin Hammer (Missouri) in signing to continue their athletic careers in college

“It’s always a hard choice, but when you factor in football, that makes it even harder,” Matt Sanders said. “You just have to go through the whole process open-minded as well as factoring in the academic side of things.”

Matt Sanders was the Vipers’ only first-team All-State selection, finishing the season with 104 knockdowns and 32 pancakes at center. He played every snap of Vandegrift’s 13 regular and postseason games. 

Mary Hardin-Baylor has one of the most successful Division III schools over the last few years, winning national championships in 2016 and 2018 and making it to the championship game in 2017. 

“The way they’ve won the last three years is pretty impressive,” Matt Sanders said. “I like to win and hate to lose. I knew that wherever I was going to go, I was going to fight and be ready for battle.”

Matt’s dad, Drew, has been the head coach of the Vipers since their inception. 

He was able to go from coach mode to dad mode by taking off his black Vandegrift jacket for a purple UMHB polo while his son’s honors and accomplishments were read. 

“I could not be prouder of him,” Drew Sanders said. “He had a big recruiting whirlwind over the last two months. People have been after him and he had a lot of good choices. We’re going be cheering him on and we’re really excited and all he’s accomplished.”

There are many Vandegrift football players he keeps track on over the week, but this one is a little different.

“We have a number of guys out there that I’m always tuning in or texting them to tell them good luck,” Drew Sanders said. “But this is my number one guy.”

Smallwood had a great season in his senior year as the team’s every-down running back, earning first-team All-District honors, rushing for 1,409 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had six games with 100 yards or more. 

“I’m looking forward to going there and putting in a lot of work,” Smallwood said. “If I can stay mentally better than everybody there, I can come out on top in the situation. It’s been good to get through this process with my family and them encouraging me.”

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