MIAMI – Drache Marveggio had two objectives in mind as he watched the ball float through the air.
No. 1: Don’t get blindsided before making the catch
No. 2: Don’t drop the ball
Once he successfully checkmarked those goals and began looking downfield for blockers, the sophomore added another item to his objectives list.
No. 3: Score
Marveggio snagged a punt blocked by Caden Parnell and returned it 17 yards for the first of two Verdigris special teams touchdowns as the Class 3A No. 6 Cardinals rolled to a 49-10 victory over Miami on Saturday afternoon at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M’s Red Robertson Field. The game was moved from Friday night because several Wardog starters were still quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
The opening score with 4:45 remaining in the first quarter served as Marveggio’s first touchdown of his varsity career.
“When I caught it, I’m thinking, ‘I’m taking it to the house,’” Marveggio said. “It felt great. It’s probably the best feeling I’ve had in my varsity football career.”
Parnell, who is also a sophomore, scored a special teams touchdown of his own on an 85-yard kickoff return at the 1:07 mark of the third quarter, increasing the Verdigris lead to 49-3.
Special teams was a major emphasis at practice leading up to Saturday’s matinee because Verdigris surrendered an 81-yard kickoff return for a touchdown during its 45-6 win over Sperry in Week 1. Cardinals coach Travis East wanted big plays on special teams, and his players – especially Parnell – delivered.
“We practiced it a lot, and coach said we were going to bust our butts to get all we could out of special teams,” Parnell said. “I put my trust in the coaches’ words and went out there and did it for them.”
Special teams wasn’t the only strength for Verdigris, though.
The Cardinals (2-0) held Miami to 182 yards and forced four turnovers, including a 69-yard interception return for a touchdown by Alek Hess on a busted receiver pass trick play with 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Hess also recovered a sack fumble caused by sophomore linebacker Reese Roller on the Wardogs’ first play of the game.
Carson Calvert and Ryan Wells recovered fumbles as well.
Marveggio and Hess’ scores bailed out the offense early after a turnover on downs and an interception stalled the first two drives.
Verdigris led 14-0 after one quarter despite managing only 23 yards of offense, but it found its explosive nature in the second.
Dylan White threw touchdown passes of 46 and 30 yards to Hayden Jones only 45 seconds apart at the 9:40 and 8:55 marks of the second quarter, and Alec James followed with a 34-yard touchdown run less than three minutes later to make it 35-0.
Carson Cook added another score on a 2-yard run with 2:59 remaining in the frame, giving the Cardinals a 42-0 halftime advantage.
Verdigris outgained Miami 148-22 in the second quarter alone.
White completed 7 of 11 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns, with Jones catching three of those throws for 78 yards. Elsewhere, James accounted for 36 yards to lead the Cardinals’ 84-yard rushing performance that averaged 4.2 yards per carry.
East attributed the early offensive struggles to the noon kickoff on a Saturday.
“Our kids have never really done that,” said East, whose team finished with only 207 yards total despite scoring 49 points. “They had to make sure they didn’t come out flat, and we did a little bit on offense. Defense still played well. Our offense is really, really good and really talented, and we just started out a little flat, made a couple of mistakes and just didn’t do exactly what we needed to do. We score on defense and special teams, and the next thing you know, we’re rolling.”
With 1:25 remaining in the third quarter, Wardogs kicker Skyler Judd hit a 21-yard field goal that ended the shutout bid but set up Parnell’s kickoff return – the only Verdigris score of the second half.
Most of Miami’s 182 yards came late in the fourth quarter on a methodical drive capped by Josh Thronebury, who rumbled 62 yards for a touchdown with 2:22 remaining to finish with 106 yards on 19 carries.
Karson Jinks led the Wardogs through the air, throwing for 76 yards on 13-of-21 passing.
The Cardinals host Victory Christian for Homecoming Night at 7 p.m. Friday. Verdigris defeated the Conquerors 72-13 last year, but East said they can’t let that result get them overconfident.
VC (0-2) is coming off a bye week after suffering a 60-47 loss to Class A No. 2 Pawhuska on Sept. 4.
“It’s a new year, and Victory Christian is a good football team right now,” East said. “They’ve done some really good things, and they played Cascia Hall tight and played Pawhuska tight. If they make some more plays, they’re doing great.”