ARLINGTON, Texas (KXAN) — It was quite a ride for the Vandegrift Vipers to their first-ever Texas football state championship game, but it came up just short in a 42-17 loss to DeSoto on Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Vandegrift head coach Drew Sanders said DeSoto had a great gameplan coming in and they were able to execute it. This is the best season finished the Vipers have ever had, and even though it didn’t end the way they wanted it to, 2022 is a year to be proud of.
“After our first loss, our guys practiced like absolute maniacs,” Sanders said. “When we were 0-1, we had no idea it would end up here.”
DeSoto’s swarming defense gave Vandegrift quarterback Brayden Buchanan all kinds of problems and their explosive offense was on full display.
The Eagles averaged 22.5 yards per pass completion and had two 100-yard receivers to rack up 605 total yards. Quarterback DJ Bailey threw for 293 yards on 13-of-17 passing with three touchdowns. Tre Wisner hauled in six passes for 135 yards and two scores while Johntay Cook II had three catches for 103 yards and a score. Both have verbally committed to play football for the Texas Longhorns next season.
DeSoto sophomore Deondrae Riden rushed for 183 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns to lead a tremendous Eagles offensive attack. Wisner also pitched in 75 rushing yards.
“We saw their speed on tape, and they have violent good running backs and speed on the edge,” Sanders said. “That’s what happened in the first half, we tried to stop the run and we got caught twice outside. They were as fast as I feared.”
Vandegrift hung with DeSoto for a good portion of the game and led 3-0 early in the second quarter after a Hayden Arnold 36-yard field goal. DeSoto took a 21-10 lead into halftime, however, behind touchdowns from Cook, Wisner and Riden in the second frame.
The Vipers cut into DeSoto’s lead after they scored on the first drive of the second half. Running back Alex Witt broke a 20-yard run for a touchdown after he scampered for 22 yards to set it up. Witt’s touchdown with 9:30 left in the third quarter cut the Eagles’ lead to 21-17. It was all Eagles from there, however.
DeSoto scored three unanswered touchdowns to close it out, two rushing scores from Riden and the back-breaker — a 62-yard catch-and-run from Bailey to Wisner early in the fourth quarter.
For Vandegrift, Witt had a great game with 134 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. Defensive back Alex Foster had 26 tackles, 12 of them solo, to the lead Vipers’ defense. Buchanan finished 7-for-19 passing for 84 yards and he was sacked five times.
Both teams finished the season 14-2. Sanders got emotional in the postgame press conference when he was asked what this team meant to him.
“I got about 350 text messages after we beat Katy last week, and just about all of them were from former players and parents,” he said. “That leads me to my feelings about this team. Everyone views themselves as some sort of leader and we didn’t deal with any issues off the field. They’ve been super low maintenance, and the results show that. These guys are proud to wear the Vandegrift name.”
Buchanan, who will play baseball at Baylor next year, said this team “cemented a legacy” at the school.
“We surpassed our previous standard, but it just didn’t go our way tonight,” Buchanan said. “Nothin’ but love for the guy in the locker room. What an amazing season.”
It’s DeSoto’s second state championship in school history.
Final: DeSoto 42, Vandegrift 17
10:37 4Q: TOUCHDOWN DESOTO – There’s the back-breaker for Vandegrift. DJ Bailey zips a pass over the middle for Tre Wisner, and Wisner’s elite speed is on full display for a 62-yard touchdown. Wisner has six catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns in the game. PAT good. Eagles 42, Vipers 17
End 3Q: DeSoto 35, Vandegrift 17. The Eagles put two in the end zone from Riden in the quarter to stretch their lead. Vandegrift punted to end the quarter so the Eagles will have the ball to start the fourth.
0:23 3Q: The Vipers dodge a bullet after a reply review overturns a fumble on the field and rules it an incomplete pass. Wow.
1:22 3Q: TOUCHDOWN DESOTO – The Eagles go 91 yards in eight plays and Riden caps it off with a 7-yard run for his third touchdown of the game. A big play on the drive was a 56-yard pass from Bailey to Cook to get the ball into the Vipers’ red zone. PAT good. Eagles 35, Vipers 17
4:09 3Q: Buchanan hits a quick kick that takes a tremendous roll down to the DeSoto 9-yard line to pin the Eagles deep in their own territory.
6:07 3Q: TOUCHDOWN DESOTO – The Eagles answer Vandegrift with a 6-yard touchdown run from Riden. He has 169 rushing yards on 28 carries so far. PAT good. Eagles 28, Vipers 17
9:30 3Q: TOUCHDOWN VANDEGRIFT – The Vipers get exactly what they needed with their first drive of the second half, Alex Witt runs it in from 20 yards out following a 22-yard run to set it up. Witt now has 124 rushing yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns. PAT good. Eagles 21, Vipers 17
12:00 3Q: Vandegrift will receive the second-half kickoff, and let’s see if the Vipers can sustain a drive and get points to open the half.
Halftime: DeSoto 21, Vandegrift 10. DeSoto has fumbled twice inside the 10-yard line but the Eagles have been able to rack up 319 total yards to Vandegrift’s 133.
3:20 2Q: TOUCHDOWN DESOTO – Riden bullies his way into the end through Vandegrift defenders for a 4-yard touchdown run. PAT good. Eagles 21, Vipers 10
4:32 2Q: Vandegrift doesn’t do much on the ensuing offensive drive following the turnover and they have to punt. DeSoto gets great field position on the Vandegrift 44-yard line to start the drive.
6:41 2Q: DeSoto’s Deondrae Riden Jr. coughs up the ball at the 2-yard line going in and the Vipers fall on it. Huge play by Alex Foster to force the fumble and Oliver Yndo jumps on it.
8:42 2Q: TOUCHDOWN VANDEGRIFT – Witt lines up to take the snap and surges behind the big offensive line for a 1-yard touchdown. A much-needed answer by the Vipers there. PAT good after a false start penalty moved it back five yards. Eagles 14, Vipers 10
8:58 2Q: Vandegrift’s Alex Witt gets the edge and bursts 57 yards down the sideline to set the Vipers up in DeSoto’s red zone.
9:19 2Q: TOUCHDOWN DESOTO – The Eagles turn the fumble recovery into points quickly. Bailey fires a pass out to Tre Wisner, another player committed to the Texas Longhorns, and Wisner turn the play into a 10-yard touchdown. Eagles 14, Vipers 3
9:43 2Q: After an officials review, an incomplete pass by Buchanan is overturned to a fumble and DeSoto takes over on the Vandegrift 17-yard line.
11:05 2Q: TOUCHDOWN DESOTO – The Eagles’ offense is lightning fast and they showed it there. DJ Bailey zips a quick pass to Johntay Cook II, and Cook showcases his speed and agility to turn it into a 42-yard touchdown. PAT good. Eagles 7, Vipers 3
11:56 2Q: FIELD GOAL VANDEGRIFT – Arnold knocks a 36-yard kick through the uprights and Vandegrift draws first blood in the 6A-DII title game. Vipers 3, Eagles 0
End 1Q: Vandegrift 0, DeSoto 0. The Vipers have the ball in field goal range on 4th-and-5 from the DeSoto 19-yard line. Perhaps Vandegrift coach Drew Sanders will send his tremendous kicker Hayden Arnold out to try for the game’s first points.
2:28 1Q: Both defenses are playing well early on and the Vipers force another punty by DeSoto. They’ll start with good field position at their own 40-yard line.
4:13 1Q: Vandegrift moves the ball but the drive fizzles out and Buchanan makes a nice quick kick on 4th-and-3 to send the Eagles back to their own 14-yard line to start the drive.
6:03 1Q: The Vipers’ defense makes a stop and forces a DeSoto punt. They’ll take over on their own 21-yard line to start their second offensive drive of the game.
9:02 1Q: Vandegrift goes three-and-out on its first drive without gaining a yard, but a terrific punt by Hudson Lilie and a penalty on the return pins DeSoto on their own 19-yard line.
10:25 1Q: DeSoto was flying down the field with chunk plays and had it in the red zone, but Jaden Trawick fumbled on his first carry of the game and the Vipers jumped on it. Huge play for the Vipers to avoid going down early after DeSoto’s first drive. Vipers take over on their own 21-yard line.
12:00 1Q: Vandegrift wins the coin toss and will defer its option to the second half, so DeSoto will receive the opening kick.