Verdigris running back Alec James bursts through the Holland Hall defense for a first down. The Cardinals’ offense struggled most of the night, though, managing only 133 yards while committing five turnovers.

TULSA — Verdigris defenders thought they had stopped Cameron Robinson at the 1-yard line, preventing Holland Hall from scoring a touchdown on its opening possession.

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound running back had other ideas.

As Robinson fell to the ground, he pitched the ball to quarterback Wallace Clark, who covered the necessary yardage to reach the end zone. That third-down score with 5:57 remaining in the first quarter rattled Verdigris into a state of doubt it couldn’t recover from.

From there, it was a nightmarish flashback to the 2019 Class 3A semifinals when Plainview handed the Cardinals a 42-point loss (55-13). The second-ranked Dutch scored on their next seven drives and forced five turnovers to run away with a 52-7 victory over Class 3A No. 5 Verdigris on Friday night at Hardesty Field.

It was the lowest point outing for the Cardinals since a 46-7 loss to Mannford on Oct. 6, 2017.

“Lots of things went wrong,” Verdigris coach Travis East said. “We didn’t play very well, and they’re a really, really good team. They’re really talented at every position on the field. That’s just the way it is sometimes.”

Clark had a stellar night against the normally stout Verdigris defense that had given up only 12.6 points per game, accounting for 271 yards of offense and six touchdowns. The senior completed 11 of 14 passes for 230 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 41 yards and two scores on seven carries.

By the end of the first quarter, he had already rushed for scores of 1 and 3 yards and threw a 9-yard touchdown strike to Marc Gouldsby. The Cardinals had minus-6 yards during that timeframe.

In all, Clark completed five passes of 25 yards or more, including touchdown throws of 25, 40 and 37 yards. The 40-yarder went to Gouldsby, who finished with 92 yards on four receptions. BT Terry — who made a diving catch in the end zone to increase the Holland Hall lead to 31-0 with 3:37 remaining in the first half — snagged the other two, tallying three catches for 73 yards.

“We knew they were really talented at quarterback and receiver, and we tried to prepare for it the best we could,” East said. “They just made more plays and made some really good plays.”

Verdigris (7-1, 4-1 District 3A-4) didn’t get its first stop until Magnus Lepak missed a 36-yard field goal in the final seconds on the third quarter. He hit a 34-yarder early in the second.

The Cardinal offense had just as much trouble with the Dutch, registering only 133 yards on 43 plays — about 3.1 yards per snap.

However, the biggest detriment was turnovers.

Holland Hall (7-0, 4-0) intercepted Hayden Jones, who again filled in for an injured Dylan White, four times. Ethan Roush pulled down three of those.

Jones threw for only 31 yards on 6-of-14 passing, but he did somewhat atone for the giveaways with a 42-yard touchdown scamper at the 9:45 mark of the fourth quarter to keep Verdigris from suffering its first shutout loss since a 61-0 decision against Berryhill on Oct. 14, 2016 in East’s first year at the helm.

Verdigris also lost a fumble on a play that resulted in a 22-yard loss.

“Hayden is a great kid, and he’s had to step in and play some quarterback here lately,” East said. “It is what it is. With him, it’s about keeping his head up because we have a big game next week against Vinita.”

Vinita now sits ahead of the Cardinals in the District 3A-4 standings after besting Berryhill 21-13 on Friday night to improve to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in district. The Hornets didn’t play Holland Hall, though, for the game scheduled for Oct. 9 was canceled because of COVID-19.

To get the best playoff position possible, Verdigris must bounce back from its disappointing performance and hand Vinita its first district loss next week.

“The message is simple: You gotta forget about this one,” East said. “This one’s gotta be gone, and we gotta learn from it and move on.

“That’s the message — get over it and move forward.”

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