AUSTIN, Texas — Success wasn't supposed to come as quickly as it did for Vandegrift.

The Vipers entered the 2018 high school football season only in year three as a 6A team and in year one as a member of District 13.

They proceeded to run the table in district, posting an undefeated record for the first time in school history.

"A lot of guys didn't think we could go far last year," senior linebacker Jax McCauley said. "A lot of people were saying, 'Oh, you're in a new district. It's going to be tough for Vandegrift to do things,' and we went 12-1 last season."

"Shoot, I think we surprised ourselves," head coach Drew Sanders said. "I never really set a goal of going undefeated ... To talk about an undefeated season, it's kind of cool. I've never done it in my coaching career."

Sanders then added that having success in 2019 will involve leaving last year in the past.

"We have to grind this year – last year is over," he said. "I appreciated it, I enjoyed it, [but] in the middle of week five or six I'm not going to be like, 'Man, last year was fun.' It's about this year and what these guys can do."

At the center of any potential success will be McCauley, who's returning after an All-State season as a junior.

"He's going to be prepared – no one's going to be more prepared," Sanders said. "He's at coach level. He will come into our offices with four to six suggestions for things we should do to that week's opponent."

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Along with the help of now-graduated Spencer Jones, McCauley oversaw a defense that held opponents to just 17 points per game last year.

A strong defensive culture is what's helped Vandegrift go from "the hunter" to "the hunted" according to Sanders. It's a rise that he's seen through, all the way since Vandegrift was a 4A program.

"It's what I've dreamed of and worked for, to build this program since its inception," he said. "All that is a credit to the past, [but] it's always hats off to the past, sleeves up to the future."

The Vipers open their season with a home game against Cedar Park on Aug. 30.

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