VERDIGRIS – Down by three touchdowns at halftime, Verdigris needed an offensive catalyst.
A spark; someone to put the Cardinals on his back and carry them over the finish line. J
unior quarterback Hayden Jones came oh so close to becoming that man.
Five turnovers, 114 yards in penalties, a blocked punt and Cascia Hall’s harassing pass defense got in the way of any heroics by Jones, allowing the Commandoes to sneak away with a 35-28 victory in the District 3A-4 opener for both teams Friday night at Cardinal Stadium.
Verdigris (2-2, 0-1 3A-4) played two different halves of football, spending the second one trying to overcome the mistakes of the first.
Unable to pass effectively against the Cascia rush, Jones turned to the run, gaining 104 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns. It was almost enough.
The Cardinals trailed 28-7 before reeling off three touchdowns in a matter of 10 minutes, 58 seconds.
A lost fumble by Cascia punter Dominick Caballero at his 24-yard line seemed to unsettle his crew.
Caballero went down with an apparent serious leg injury and had to be taken from the field by stretcher and to an ambulance.
Five plays later, Jones crashed over from 3 yards out, with Giovani Vergara-Soto’s kick cutting the CAHS lead to 28-14.
Verdigris required just over two minutes to come within a touchdown.
D-back Brock Fugate swiped a Jaxon Henderson pass and lumbered 29 yards to score with 6:13 left in the third period.
The Cardinals then drove 85 yards in 10 plays to finally pull into a 28-28 tie 2:37 deep into the final quarter.
Jones broke tackle after tackle on a 27-yard blast to the 1, then plunged the final yard before Vergara-Soto’s PAT gave Verdigris life.
It was short-lived, however.
Cascia Hall moved 68 yards in five plays to go back in front behind the bruising bursts of senior running back Jake Wellen.
Wellen, who gained 107 yards on 33 carries, scored his third touchdown from 1 yard out with 6:37 remaining.
Verdigris still had time for another knot with two possessions left.
The first ended when Jones was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-3 from the Cascia Hall 11.
Jones again moved the Cards to the Commandoes’ 38 in the final minute, but his third-and-2 pass was stolen by Cascia linebacker Michael DeSelms, assuring a heartbreaking loss for VHS.
The home team created the desperate second half thanks to three lost fumbles, one of which setup a Cascia Hall touchdown and a blocked punt that led to another Commando score.