Cypress Bridgeland had a long road trip back home to contemplate what went wrong in a 14-13 loss to the Vandegrift Vipers in the Region I-6A, Division II bi-district playoffs, but another thing to think about is how bright the future is for the program.
At times the Bears looked like a seasoned postseason veterans at times at Monroe Stadium on Friday.
“I think there’s a lot of hope,” head coach David Raffield said. “I think we started 18 or 19 underclassmen tonight so there’s a lot of hope down the road for this team.”
Bears sophomore quarterback Conner Weigman had 29 carries for 166 yards and scored the first touchdown in Bridgeland playoff history while sophomore running back Mason Culton finished with 60 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Bridgeland (8-3) enjoyed a five-game turnaround in 2019 and was the aggressor on Vandegrift’s (11-0) home field controlling both sides of the line of scrimmage in the first half and built a 13-0 lead.
Weigman capped the first Bear drive of the night with a six-yard touchdown run that made it 7-0 Bridgeland with 2:24 remaining in the first quarter. He also finished the game with 102 passing yards on 10-of-23 passing.
“I’m really proud of the kids,” Raffield said. “To think that they were 2-7 JV, to 3-7 varsity to 8-3 (team). Man, those kids have really worked hard to get to this point.”
The Bears ran 21 offensive plays to only eight for the Vipers in the opening quarter.
Bridgeland out-gained Vandegrift 225-62 in the first half, had a 23-3 edge on first downs through three quarters and also converted on 10 of its first 13 third down attempts and conversely stopped five of Vandegrift’s first six attempts to convert on third down.
Culton made it 13-0 with one-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left in the first half. The scoring run capped a 14-play, 72-yard scoring drive that took 4:48 off the clock.
All nine Bears skills position players that recorded stat in the playoff game were underclassmen.
“I think anytime you get in the playoffs, it goes up a notch and we got exposed to that,”Raffield said. “We know what it takes to beat a really good football team, now we just go out and execute next year.”
Ultimately, experience won out on Friday as Vandegrift was an established program with 44 seniors on the roster and going for its seventh consecutive bi-district title.
The Vipers scored two touchdowns on their final two drives. Seven of Vandegrift’s 10 first downs came in the fourth quarter and were a perfect 2-2 on third down conversions after only converting 16 percent (1 for 6) of those chances though the first 36 minutes.
Conversely, Bridgeland had only one first down, was a combined 0-for-4 on third and fourth down attempts and was whistled for three penalties for 20 yards in the final frame.
“We didn’t make the plays we needed to make and they made the plays they needed to make,” Raffield said. “It wasn’t hard, we dropped some balls, we missed some blocks, we gave up a couple of things, but that’s the game.”