ONE MORE: Vandegrift one win away from school history
Vandegrift is a fairly new school. The programs first Varsity season was in 2010. But even so, making the state championship in only the schools 14th year feels like a long time coming for the Vipers. And for head coach Drew Sanders, the only coach in Vipers history, their trip to AT&T stadium is something even more special to him.
"It is rewarding to make it to this spot, especially being the only coach in here [in Vandegrift history]," said coach Sanders. "To think in 2010 playing in our first varsity season and now we are here and not just a state championship but a 6A state championship, it's just the highest level of football. And to be able to do that it is just a little bit overwhelming to think we could do that. But it's not at the same time. I've never waivered on my beliefs or expectations for the program."
To get to this point in the season, coach Sanders knew if his kids focused on everything they were coached up on and they ignored the outside noise, they would have a chance to win the game this past Saturday against Katy.
"One of the things we talked about before the game was to not be the first person to tell yourself no," said coach Sanders. We just talked all week that people may think we don't have a chance, but you need to think we have a chance. So we just concentrated on the things we could control. That was how hard we could work and focus on practice and do what we needed to do."
His belief did not waiver, even if for the first time during a game he felt nerves, ahead of the game winning 37-yard field goal to send them to state.
"I was definitely a little bit nervous, I don't get nervous during games," said coach Sanders. "I'm nervous before games but once it starts it's kind of like when I was a player once that first hit happens all I'm doing is having fun player football. The same thing happens with coaching I'm just trying to make decisions, being fired up if needed or I'm correcting something or whatever. But once we were lining up (for the kick) I actually started having some nervousness in me. I took my headsets off, I said a brief prayer, and I wasn't going to watch and at the very I had to watch so I turned around and watched the kick sail through the uprights."
While he may not have been with the varsity program for as long as coach Sanders, the moment was also something that senior quarterback Brayden Buchanan will never forget.
"It is a giant step for our program," said Buchanan. "Our theme for the year was “Legacy” and I feel that we have absolutely left an imprint on our school but there’s nothing that holds more prowess than a state championship."
Buchanan credits his offensive lines play all season for getting the program to its first state championship game.
"The O-line has been spectacular all year," said Buchanan. "All of the big plays down the field and the big runs start with those guys up front. Being able to only focus on going through my progression without any worry of a pass rush is such a great feeling. I know it has me feeling confident and I’m sure the same applies for Alex in the run game."
Now their attention turns to DeSoto who is back in the state title game for the first time since 2016. Led by one of the best players in the nation in Johntay Cook, the Eagles will pose new challenges for the Vipers on Saturday.
"We definitely celebrated all of Saturday but once Sunday hit it was time to refocus and get into the film room," Buchanan said. They have a great defense, they’re very fast and tackle well in space."
As for what to expect stepping out onto the field at AT&T for the first time as a program?
"It’s going to be an amazing experience," said Buchanan. "Hopefully I can get all the jitters out by the time kick off rolls around. As a team we just need to remember that it’s just a football game; same time on the clock and the field is the same length."
Vandegrift and DeSoto kick off at 3PM Saturday December 17th at AT&T Stadium in Arlingotn, Texas. The game can also be watched on Bally Sports.