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Melissa Cardinals run over state-ranked Raiders

Staff Writer
Anna-Melissa Tribune

The Melissa Cardinals came back in week two with the same type of aggression they had in week one when they defeated state-ranked Celina 32-20, using a high-powered passing game that totaled 422 yards to defeat state-ranked Sunnyvale 58-28.

Melissa moved to 2-0 for the season riding their high-octane offense and tough-as-nails defense despite five turnovers on the offensive side of the ball.

Coach Matt Nally is confident that the Cardinals can find the continuity on offense to eliminate the turnovers and lock down all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams).

When asked, Nally added, “We have high expectations this season and once we get all three phases of the game rolling, we will be tough. We scored 58 points and won by 30 despite our five turnovers. The offense put points on the board and special teams was good tonight, but the defense was incredible for the second week in a row.”

The Cardinals found a way to put plenty of points on the board as they opened up the first quarter with 16 points and scored 14 points each of the remaining three quarters.

Damon Youngblood made the first of many big plays for the Cardinals with a 35-yard interception return for a touchdown with just four minutes gone in the game. Sunnyvale answered back with a scoring play on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Max Mcada to Noah McDill just three minutes later.

Youngblood made another big play for Melissa with a 57-yard return on an interception that set up a 28-yard Luke Hanson field goal. After a couple more big plays by the Cardinal defense, including a big stop on fourth and two at their own 15, the offense put together a drive that culminated in a seven-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Robinson from Sam Fennegan, who had four big completions on the 85-yard drive to end the opening quarter.

The pace of the game stayed the same during the second period, and Fennegan and Youngblood continued big play magic with a 40-yard toss and catch for a touchdown.

The Cardinal defense stiffened and either held Sunnyvale on downs or forced them to punt, except one drive when the Raiders scored on a 50-yard touchdown play with Mcada on the receiving end of the score.

After overcoming another turnover, the Cardinals hit another big play with 51 seconds left in the period when Fennegan found Jacob Kusano on an 81-yard scoring play. Halftime lead was 28-14 as Hansen was once again good on the PAT.

Jaylen Williams added a touchdown on an eight-yard run in the opening drive of the third quarter, and when the Cardinals looked like they might put another drive together, they were victims of another interception.

Sunnyvale running back Obi Arinze popped off a big play of his own on a 68-yard touchdown scamper. Carlos Branch continued to make huge plays on special teams on the ensuing kickoff with a 92-yard return, which became a Cardinal touchdown two plays later with Ashton Mitchell-Johnston carrying the rock the final three yards.

Sunnyvale answered back on their first drive of the final quarter with Mcada catching a 19-yard scoring strike from Ringdon Yates at the 11-minute mark. That was all the scoring for the Raiders as Melissa refused to give any offense through the air or on the ground.

At the 6:37 mark of the final quarter, Fennegan hooked up with Chanse Holiday for a 51-yard score and then closed out the scoring finding Bryson Neely for a 20-yard score with two minutes left in the game.

Nally noted several performances after the Friday night contest. Along with once again giving recognition to the entire defensive and special teams units, he gave kudos to Carlos Branch again with a great night.

Damon Youngblood had a great night on both sides of the ball with two touchdowns (interception return and touchdown catch), Antonio Robinson (five receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown), Colton Wittwer (four catches for 62 yards) and Jacob Kusano (two receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown) on the offensive side of the ball

Caden Nordberg and Nigel Smith excelled on the defensive side of the ball and Luke Hansen (seven for seven on PAT and a 38 yard field goal) on special teams.

The Cardinals face another tough game Sept. 11 when they host the Pottsboro Cardinals. Both teams are 2-0 on the season and Pottsboro comes into the game ranked third in Class 3A-DI after a 34-21 win over Gunter, the second-ranked team in Class 3A-DII last week.

This is a very important contest for both Cardinal squads. Nally noted that his team is excited about the start to the season, but that they realize it is just the beginning.

After getting knocked out of the playoffs last year by state runner-up Waco LaVega, the Cardinals have their goals set on higher expectations for 2020.