District championships are won in the regular season, but the greatest of high school football glories are achieved in the playoffs. After polishing off its first perfect season in school history last week, Vandegrift (11-0) took the previous sentence to heart and started the postseason with an exclamatory 35-14 win against a strong Tomball Memorial squad (8-3) in the bi-district round of the playoffs Friday at Monroe Stadium in Austin.
In what Vandegrift coach Drew Sanders called a “total team win,” the Vipers held the Wildcats 28 points below their season average and to 283 yards on 50 plays for 5.7 yards per play, while the offense totaled 488 yards on 60 plays for 8.1 yards per play in what was their greatest scoring output against a playoff team all season.
“They’re a good opponent,” said Vandegrift coach Drew Sanders. “For us, we just needed to go out and play our game, and we did that. (I’m) really impressed… Offense was very good and defense was outstanding.”
The Vipers are used to getting outstanding performances from their defense, which ranks among the top in Central Texas, but it was the offense getting career-best performances from senior quarterback Dru Dawson and senior running back Isaiah Smallwood that allowed them to win by a comfortable 21 points.
Dawson threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions on 16-of-19 passing while adding 24 yards and a score on the ground. Smallwood pounded away for 180 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown.
“(Offensive balance) opens everything up,” Sander said. “When you can throw, then they start to widen and it allows you to run, or vice versa. When you start running, they hunker down, and it allows you to throw… I’m really proud of (Dawson). He threw the ball well… (We) protected well. We ran the ball well.”
A seven-yard run touchdown run by Dawson and 44-yard scoring dash by Smallwood gave Vandegrift a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. Tomball Memorial cut the lead in half with a 19-yard touchdown scamper from sophomore quarterback Colton Marwill.
The Vipers reasserted themselves, however, with two touchdown passes from Dawson to Trey Mongauzy (five catches, 76 yards). The first came in the final minute of the first half, the second in the opening minute of the second.
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