VERDIGRIS – Young and old, big and little, Verdigris played defense to the hilt Friday night against Vinita at Cardinal Stadium.
Senior standout defensive end Austin Woods (6-6, 280) joined freshman linebacker Reese Roller (5-10, 170) in swallowing up the ineffective Hornets offense, leading to a 46-9 District 3A-4 victory and boosting the Cards to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in league play. Vinita left town 2-3 and 1-1.
Woods and Roller both pestered the Hornets passing’ attempts and limited them to minus-3 yards on the ground and 90 overall.
With the entire defensive unit savagely hitting like headhunters, the Cardinals threw Vinita for losses on 12 plays, totaling 86 yards.
“They came ready to play tonight and we’ve been waiting to play up to our potential,” Verdigris coach Travis East said. “We had a great defensive effort. Roller always comes to play; he always goes full speed and inflicts punishment. We talked all week about tackling and hitting hard.’’
The Hornets were held to minus-45 yards rushing in the first half and 41 overall.
Heading into Vinita’s final scoring drive against Cardinal reserves, the visitors had zero first downs in the second half.
Despite dominating, Verdigris had a shaky beginning.
Quarterback Hayden Jones surrendered an interception at his 40 that led to Price Ward’s 29-yard field goal and a 3-0 edge for the Hornets with 3:20 left in the first quarter.
“We struggled early on offense, but our defense was solid all game,’’ East said. “I was pleased with how hard we played tonight. We knew we had to stop their No. 12 kid (running back Kyron Downing). He’s a good player. Now we’ve got to eliminate our turnovers and penalties.’’
The Cardinals were successful on two of three of East’s key points.
Downing was held to minus-two yards on seven carries, and Jones’ pick was the only giveaway for VHS.
However, the home team was penalized 10 times for 103 yards. With Jones and his offense breaking loose after the first period, mistakes didn’t play a major role in the outcome.
Jones ran for touchdowns of seven and 10 yards in the second quarter and then tossed scoring passes of 44, 29 and 33 yards to clinch victory.
Verdigris finished with 468 yards in total offense and could have had more points if two touchdowns had not been called back due to penalties, including Jones’ 96-yard interception return.
Reese Roller’s blocked punt set up Caden Parnell’s nine-yard scoring run, giving VHS an 8-3 lead with 20 seconds to go in the opening period.
It only got better from there for the Cardinals.
Jones’ two touchdowns runs and his 44-yard strike to Ty Moore made it 26-3 at halftime.
Jones found Willis on a pair bombs in period three, and Carson Cook scored from 14 yards out in the fourth frame as the Cards’ lead ballooned to 46-3.
Cook topped Verdigris rushers with 75 yards on four carries.