VERDIGRIS — When it comes to corner kicks, Bradyn Marshall knows exactly where to be.
So, when a Wagoner defender tried to clear the ball out of the danger zone, an opportunity presented itself as a gift to the senior.
It was, quite literally, the perfect birthday present.
Marshall turned 19 on Friday, and he commemorated the occasion the best way he possibly could — with the game-winning goal.
Well, sort of.
Marshall corralled a loose ball in the box with a well-timed header after a corner, sending it hurtling back toward the goal. The Bulldogs mishandled the situation, though, accidentally putting the ball in their own net on the clear attempt.
The own goal with 22:20 remaining propelled Verdigris to a 2-1 district victory at Cardinals Stadium.
“Usually on corner kicks like that, I like to stay around where the ball would come out from a defender, and it came right to me, so I just went for it,” Marshall said. “I was like, ‘Wow, it must be my birthday present.’ It felt really good (to help the team get the win) because we’ve been working really hard, but we haven’t really clicked the past couple of games. Now we’re working together and making things work.
“It’s really looking good for us this year.”
The Cardinals vaulted into third place in the District 4A-5 standings with the win, improving to 7-4 overall and 3-1 in district.
Furthermore, Verdigris was finally able to exact its revenge on the Bulldogs for ending its bid for a third-straight undefeated season in district play last season. Before that 3-0 loss on April 20, 2018, the Cardinals had won 20-consecutive district games.
Verdigris coach Justin Phillip said his team was more focused on the current district landscape for this contest, but avenging that defeat added a bit of gloss to the victory.
“We’ve won district the past three years, so this was a game we had to win if we wanted to win district again this year,” Phillip said. “This was the only team to beat us in district the last three years, so we were more motivated to play. Whoever loses a game like this will end up missing the playoffs, so these games are pretty critical for us.”
Wagoner (8-2, 2-1) was the early aggressor, notching multiple shots on goal in the opening 10 minutes.
Luckily for Verdigris, it took Pablo Poza only one.
With the team’s first shot of the evening, the Madrid, Spain native placed a shot perfectly off the bottom of the crossbar and into the net, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead at the 29:52 mark in the first half.
“Whenever I have the ball in that position, I just hope I’ll get lucky and score,” Poza said.
The Bulldogs managed to find an equalizer near the 37-minute mark in the second half from Ryan Dumond, but Phillip said the Cardinals’ willingness to work together ultimately helped them in securing the much-needed win.
“I think the guys played much more to the system of what we’re trying to do and played a lot more as a team,” Phillip said. “We still have to get better in the final third, but overall, the ball movement was better, and the effort level was better.
“I’m quite happy with what the boys did.”
Lady Cardinals strike fast, power past Wagoner
Aubrey Lechlider might’ve had to leave early for a wedding, but that didn’t stop her from helping the Lady Cardinals secure a victory.
The senior forward wasted little time, scoring the game’s only goal from about 15 yards out within the opening 15 minutes to lead Verdigris to a 1-0 decision over Wagoner on Friday night.
“We got a good pass from one of our center-mids to our offside forward, and she made an extra pass to Aubrey,” Lady Cardinals coach Stacy Risenhoover said.
Verdigris’ smothering defense took care of the rest after that.
Wagoner, the defending District 4A-5 champion, struggled getting the ball in Lady Cardinals territory, which resulted Verdigris dominating the time of possession.
Of course, with more time comes more scoring opportunities, and though the Lady Cardinals managed only one goal, Risenhoover said her squad had plenty of chances to add to its advantage.
Sophomore forward Lauren Bulcroft, who tallied the assist on Lechlider’s goal, had several shots at the goal herself.
“We had a couple of corners in the first half that we barely missed off headers,” Risenhoover said. “I felt like those could’ve been in the goal. In the second half, we had a few breakaways, and we didn’t really finish those.
“I actually feel like we played a good game. Our midfield all the way across worked really well and passed the ball really well.”
Verdigris improved to 5-5 on the season and sits atop the district standings with a 4-0 record. The Lady Bulldogs fell to 5-4 and 2-1 in district play.