Leander Stifles Vista Ridge for First District Win
Updated: October 1, 2016
photos: Steve Thomas
Lions Honor Fallen Officer
On Friday night, Class 6A debutantes, the Leander Lions and Cedar Park Vista Ridge Raiders squared off at AC Bible Jr Stadium. Both teams were looking to overcome disappointing starts to their seasons. For Vista Ridge, the Rangers posted a 1-3 non-district record after advancing to the Class 5A Division I Semifinals. On a more positive note, they were looking to build momentum off their district-opening win over Kyle Lehman last week. Leander also posted a 1-3 non-district record, and the Lions were hoping to open district play with a win after a bye week. Leading the Lions’ offense for the second week was sophomore quarterback Rashad Carter.
Before the game, the Leander football team again honored fallen Austin Police Officer Amir Abdul-Khaliq with a moving tribute. A drum and pipe corps and officers from several law area enforcement led the team into the stadium. Meanwhile, a line of police motorcycles entered the stadium and crossed the field from the visitor’s sideline after the team entered. Additionally, two police officers escorted Abdul-Khaliq’s son, Leander defensive back Mati Abdul, into the stadium while he bore a blue American flag with a thin blue line. Finally, law enforcement officers lined both sides of the wind tunnel as the team entered the field.
After conceding a field goal to open the scoring, Vista Ridge took gained momentum early. Senior wide receiver Nick Garrard caught an 11-yard touchdown pass, and junior quarterback Jacob Taute scored on a seven-yard keeper to put the Rangers in front 14-3.
Despite Vista Ridge’s fast start, Leander began to find their stride in the second quarter. Rashad Carter connected with junior wide receiver Colt Davis on a 45-yard touchdown pass to narrow the gap to 14-9. The Lions senior linebacker Malcolm Wright-Harris then intercepted Taute’s pass to set up the Lions at the Rangers’ 45-yard line. Four plays later, senior running back Jai Garcia gave the Lions a 16-14 lead on a one-yard touchdown run.
To open the second half, Carter found the end zone again on an 11-yard keeper. On the extra-point attempt, Leander senior wide receiver JJ Larson then ran in a bad snap for a two-point conversion to give the Lions a 24-14 lead. Senior defensive back Noah King’s 54-yard pick six on the ensuing drive gave the Lions a 30-14 lead.
After allowing 27 unanswered points, Vista Ridge had their best chance to narrow the gap on the next possession. The Rangers started the drive at their own 40-yard line and drove the ball all the way to the Leander 11-yard line. This included converting on a fake-punt on fourth down near mid-field. However, the Leander defense stopped Taute just short of the first-down marker on fourth and inches to reclaim possession.
Vista Ridge briefly had new life after their defense recovered Carter’s fumble at their own 13-yard line. Unfortunately for the Rangers, Leander’s defense answered right back. Malcolm Wright-Harris sacked Taute and forced a fumble which La’tavius Brown recovered at the Vista Ridge seven-yard line. Two plays later, Garcia found the end zone again to give Leander a 37-14 lead.
Following the Leander touchdown, Vista Ridge caught a huge break on their next possession. Senior Noah Hughes muffed the snap on an apparent punt but recovered the ball and ran it 19 yards to convert on fourth down. The Rangers capitalized on the break when senior wide receiver Sam Waldum caught a 13-yard touchdown pass. Leander junior linebacker Riley Harkleroad intercepted the two-point conversion attempt to put the score at 37-20.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Rashad Carter found the end zone again on a one-yard keeper to seal the win for Leander at 44-20. Vista Ridge junior running back Joe Goodwin added a touchdown, and Taute converted on the two-point try for the final score of 44-28.
With the win, Leander improves to 2-3 overall and 1-0 in district. Next week, the Lions travel to Monroe Stadium for a tough road contest against Leander Vandegrift. The Vipers are 2-4 overall and 1-1 in district following a 55-0 win over Kyle Lehman.
Vista Ridge, meanwhile, falls to 2-4 overall and 1-1 in district. The Rangers have a bye next week before hosting Vandegrift on October 14 at Gupton Stadium.
by Steve Thomas