VERDIGRIS – Travis East would normally be content with a 14-point victory over a top 10 opponent.
However, 2020 is anything but “normal”.
So when Verdigris got the ball back while holding a 28-14 lead with about a minute remaining, he wasn’t interested in taking a knee to run out the clock.
The Cardinals’ fifth-year coach wanted to score, and that is exactly what happened.
Rushton Williams hit a 34-yard field goal as time expired, giving Class 3A No. 5 Verdigris a 31-14 victory over No. 9 Berryhill at Cardinals Stadium on Friday night. It was the program’s second-consecutive win over the Chiefs.
Although some may have viewed the last-second score as disrespectful or classless, there was a reasonable explanation that didn’t involve simply running up the score.
District 3A-4 is one of two districts in the class so far that will determine playoff teams in an untraditional manner this year because of canceled games that won’t be rescheduled.
District wins, head-to-head results and average number of marginal points are among the criteria for picking the top four teams.
“You get 15 district points max, and we had 14,” East said. “I don’t know what this is going to shake up to be with all the cancellations and things like that, but I don’t want that one point to come down to hurt us. We tried to execute there at the end and kicked a field goal to get our one more point to get 15 points. And our kids did a great job of executing that whole drive. We get down, get out of bounds, get in field-goal range and kick it.
“It was a great job.”
Caden Parnell played a significant role in helping the Cardinals (4-0, 1-0) reach their desired margin of victory.
The sophomore was everywhere Friday night, rushing for 91 yards on 13 carries and catching three passes for 78 yards and a touchdown while also snagging an interception on defense.
“I just put faith in my teammates because I know they’ll do good for me,” said Parnell, whose 37-yard touchdown reception at the 9:18 mark of the fourth quarter gave Verdigris a 21-7 advantage. “So I just give back to them and do what they want me to do.”
He even completed a 7-yard pass to Reese Roller on a fake punt, which led to a 3-yard touchdown run by Alec James that increased the Verdigris lead to 14-0 with 8:20 remaining in the first half.
James finished with 50 yards rushing and two scores on 10 carries.
“It was something we worked on during the week, and we got in a situation where we could run a fake punt and take a shot at it,” East said. “We felt like that one was in the realm of “run the fake punt”, so we tried to execute it, and it actually kind of broke down a little bit, but Caden and Reese did a great job of making plays on it and got the first down.”
The Cardinals, paced by Dylan White, finished with 375 yards total. The sophomore quarterback completed 18 of 29 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
He also opened the scoring with a 5-yard scamper early in the first quarter.
Parnell’s interception, which came only moments before his fake-punt pass, was the last of three-consecutive turnovers forced by the Cardinal defense. The first two were fumbles.
Verdigris now has 15 turnovers on the season.
In addition to those takeaways, the Cardinals held Berryhill (1-2, 0-1) to 5 yards rushing on 20 carries – 0.25 yards per touch – thanks to six sacks on quarterback Jake Miller. Some of those were responsible for the Chiefs’ seven punts.
Verdigris also notched another seven tackles for no gain.
Miller eventually found some success through the air, finishing with 310 yards on 18-of-34 passing with touchdown tosses of 15 and 53 yards to Ethan Morton, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Cardinals’ stingy defense.
“I think our kids are playing great,” East said. “They play hard, and we play physical all over the place. From our defensive line to our secondary, they work extremely hard and play extremely well. I’m just super proud of those guys for how they play every game.”
Verdigris travels to Inola next week for an intracounty matchup. The Longhorns (3-1, 1-0) topped Jay 28-7 on Friday night.