AUSTIN — Despite excellent play on defense and outstanding offense from senior running back Khamari McClain, junior wide receiver Bobby Williams and Dantrell Sterling, Ellison couldn’t overcome a two-touchdown halftime deficit and fell to Austin Vandegrift 31-14 on Friday at Monroe Stadium.
The Eagles (1-1) scored the first points of the game, but the Vipers scored the next 28 points and shut out Ellison in the second half.
Coming out of halftime, the Eagles knew they had a battle on their hands to rein in Vandegrift’s offense and continue making stops in their own end. Thanks to impressive play by linebackers Matthew Moore, Calvin Harper and Devontae Tezino, they did exactly that.
At the end of third quarter, the Eagles were winning the red zone battle. But a missed field goal left Ellison scoreless through the first 12 minutes of the second half.
Vandegrift had nothing to show for its own efforts and managed only one trip to the red zone as well.
With two minutes left in the game, the Vipers tacked on a field goal to extend their lead to 31-14.
Thanks to solid play from both teams’ defenses, the virtual scoring stalemate stayed intact as the seconds ticked down and Vandegrift pulled out the win to start the season 2-0.
It was clear from the opening kick off that Ellison coach Danny Servance wanted an uptempo game. McClain started an outstanding first half with 30 yards rushing on the Eagle’s first possession.
Two plays later, senior quarterback Kason Sims connected with junior Sterling in the end zone, and with less than three minutes played, Ellison was on top 7-0.
Vandegrift struck back fast. Led by junior quarterback Brayden Buchanan, the Vipers marched 65 yards in six plays, ending with a 20-yard laser to wide receiver Ray Jean Middleton in the end zone to tie the game.
After a quick three-and-out for the Eagles, running back Ryan Sheppard broke tackles, then zigged and zagged his way for another touchdown and the Vipers were up 14-7.
On Ellison’s third possession of the half, Sims was intercepted by defensive back Jaxon Oliver on the 40-yard line for a pick-six. Suddenly the Vipers had a comfortable 21-7 lead barely a minute into the second quarter.
With 4:32 left in the half and facing third-and-8, Sims found Amari Summerville over the middle for a first down. That set up the running game for McClain.
Four plays later Sims connected with Williams on a screen pass. Williams found the edge and danced up the sidelines for a 25-yard dash into the end zone and Ellison headed for the lockers down 28-14 at the half.
It was a hard-fought but frustrating loss for the Eagles, made even more aggravating by penalties and costly turnovers.
Ellison travels to Cibolo Steele on Friday for their final tuneup before the Sept. 23 District 12-6A opener against Harker Heights.
FRIDAY'S AREA SCORES
- Austin Vandegrift 31, Ellison 14
- Florence 45, Bangs 14
- Georgetown 63, Copperas Cove 39
- Glen Rose 41, Gatesville 10
- Grandview 32, Salado 28
- Harker Heights 62, Georgetown East View 7
- Lake Belton 26, Arlington Heights 14
- Lampasas 56, Elgin 13
- Round Rock 35, Belton 0