Lake Travis at Vandegrift
Monroe Stadium, Leander
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Drew Sanders doesn’t like to motivate his team based on the past, so looking at how Vandegrift has fared against Lake Travis in three previous meetings mean nothing.
With the Vipers’ playoff picture already set, when the teams meet for the fourth time Friday night at Monroe Stadium, the focus is more about entering the playoffs on a high note.
“We’re motivated by love, care, concern for each other and desire to get better,” Sanders said. “I’m the type of coach where we want to do things right and do it for each other. It’s served us well in building this program.”
The Vipers will take on San Antonio Johnson in the first round of the playoff next Friday while the Cavaliers will face San Antonio Madison. Last week’s win over Hays also saw the Rebels make the playoffs by virtue of a Lake Travis win over Vista Ridge. As the smallest school in reaching the postseason from District 25-6A, the result puts Vandegrift in the Division II bracket of the Class 6A playoffs.
Vandegrift and Lake Travis are tied at 4-1 in district play and are riding winning streaks of at least three games.
Last week, the Vipers rallied with 21 points in the fourth quarter to beat Hays 31-20. It was their fourth win in a row after beating Lehman, Leander and Vista Ridge. The Vipers have scored 198 points over that span.
Lake Travis, meanwhile, has also been clicking on offense since losing to Westlake for the first time in 10 years. The Cavaliers have outscored their opponents 151-7 in the last three games.
“We don’t like to be intimidated by anybody, but we do respect our opponent,” senior defensive end Osorachukwu Ifesinachukwu said. “We know how good of a team Lake Travis is and realized what we have to do to win. Nothing changes, we just play as hard as we can.”
Vandegrift has already faced its fair share of potent offenses and held its own. They held the Odessa Permian to 28 points in a season-opening loss on the road before losing to Cedar Park 38-7. Both of which are the second-fewest points scored by those playoff-bound teams.
The Vipers also rallied to a take a fourth-quarter lead against No. 1 Westlake before giving up a late touchdown. Aside from the game against Lake Travis, it was the closest game of the season for the Chaparrals.
“That’s kind of what Viper football is known for,” Sanders said. “We are never out of a game.We were down in the Westlake game and fought back to take the lead with just a few seconds left. We’re always finding a way to continue to compete.”
Senior Justin Moore has thrown for almost 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns this season while seniors Isaiah Smallwood has rushed for 822 yards and 15 touchdowns and eclipsed 100 yards five times this season.
Two more seniors in Peyton Ausley and Justin Florence lead the team in receiving yards and have combined to catch 15 touchdowns. Five of the top six leading tacklers will be playing their final regular season game at Monroe Stadium on Friday.
“I like this class because it’s our second year 6A and a lot of people were worried if we could sustain it,” he said. “They were able to lead us to the playoffs for the second year in a row."