Vandegrift beats Killeen for first win of season
Updated: September 10, 2016
photo: Stephen C Thomas VI
Vipers Strike Back in Third Texas High School Football Game
After a tough 13-0 loss to former district rival Cedar Park last week, the Leander Vandegrift Vipers returned to Monroe Stadium Friday night to host the Killeen Kangaroos. Entering Friday night’s game, the Vipers were also 0-2 for the first time in their history. While the defense had made a strong showing for Vandegrift in the first two games, the offense had been inconsistent at best.
Fortunately for the Vipers, senior quarterback Alex Fernandes returned to the field this week after missing the last game with an injury. Killeen, meanwhile, returned to Austin for the second time this season looking to bounce back from a 34-7 loss to Waco High last week.
To open the game, the Kangaroo offense got off to a fast start moving the ball 73 yards in six plays. However, the Viper defense stiffened in the red zone and kept Killeen out of the end zone. The Kangaroos were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal by senior kicker Hector Velazquez to take a 3-0 lead.
Things appeared to go from bad to worse for Vandegrift as senior wide receiver Clay Austin fumbled the ball on the Vipers’ first play from scrimmage. Senior defensive back Trevon Thomas recovered the ball for the Kangaroos and set them up at the Vandegrift 24-yard line. Despite the excellent field position, the Kangaroos managed just four net yards of offense; and the drive ended with Vandegrift senior linebacker Pete Cornell blocking the field goal attempt.
On the next drive, Fernandes marked his return to the field culminating an 11-play 71-yard drive with a 33-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Justin Florence. After both teams traded three-and-out possessions, the Kangaroos had their first of several miscues when sophomore running back Willie McGee fumbled the ball after a 15-yard run. The Vipers recovered the ball at the Kangaroo 40-yard line and wasted little time capitalizing on the turnover. Sophomore running back Isaiah Smallwood carried the ball for 40 yards on three plays that ended with a 16-yard touchdown run. Penalties and miscues plagued both teams throughout the rest of the first half, and the Vipers went into halftime with a 14-3 lead.
Early in the second half, momentum appeared to be shifting back in Killeen’s favor. On the opening drive, the Kangaroo defense forced the Viper offense to go three-and-out. The Kangaroo offense then capped a six-play 70-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Marcellus Johnson to senior running back Greg Brewer.
After the touchdown, the Kangaroo defense held strong again and forced the Vipers into a missed 31-yard field goal attempt. On their next try, Vandegrift junior defensive back Jonathan Roth sacked Marcellus Johnson on third-and-one forcing the Kangaroos to punt.
Junior running back Mack Parker broke free on the first play of their next drive for a 73-yard touchdown run and increased the Viper lead to 20-10 after the missed extra point attempt. The Kangaroos appeared poised to narrow the gap on the following drive, but a chop-block penalty wiped off Johnson’s 48-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Montego Muckelvaney. The Kangaroos were unable to recover from the penalty and were ultimately forced to punt.
Vandegrift then put together a fifteen-play 93-yard drive ending in sophomore tight end Jackson Oliver’s one-handed touchdown catch to put the Vipers up 27-10. After the Kangaroos fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, Alex Fernandes extended the Vipers’ lead to 33-10 on a three-yard touchdown keeper. Senior defensive back Carlos Williams returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown, but the Kangaroos were unable to recover the onside kick. The Vipers were then able to run out the clock for the 33-16 win.
With the win, the Vipers get their first win of the season and improve to 1-2. After the game, head coach Drew Sanders said that he was proud of his team. He credited the defense for continuing to play well, especially after only allowing two touchdowns over the past two games. While the offense still has room for improvement, he credited his entire team with making strides.
Next week, the Vipers will go to Killeen on Thursday to face the Harker Heights Knights. The Knights are 2-1 following a 28-12 loss to Waco High.
Killeen, meanwhile, falls to 1-2 on the season. In the postgame huddle, head coach Neil Searcy stressed the importance of minimizing mistakes. One of the Killeen coaches also cited the called-back touchdown as a major momentum killer. The Kangaroos will look to bounce back next week when they host Round Rock McNeil. The Mavericks are 1-2 on the year following a 31-27 loss to Austin Del Valle.
by Stephen C Thomas VI