Blue Devils top Wildcats, earn piece of CVAC title
Jake McRee threw two touchdown passes, Jordan Bess ran for a score and Ian Oliver added a 29-yard field goal to help Maiden defeat Draughn at home Friday, 23-13.
With the victory and wins by Newton-Conover and South Iredell, the Blue Devils (8-3, 6-1) clinch a share of the final Catawba Valley 2A football title.
"Our kids just kept believing in some of the things we did," said Maiden coach Frank Snider of his team's season. "Defensively, we kept getting better. It's a great feeling of winning the conference championship. I'm really happy for this group."
While Maiden's three-game shut out streak ends in Friday's contest, it finishes with a perfect 5-0 record at home this season.
"We played really well at home all year," Snider said. "Hopefully, we can keep doing that. I think we'll have a home game this coming week."
In a game that featured a lot of running plays, it was a long pass that stood out above those rushes.
Justus Woods, who caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from McRee to opening the game's scoring, who outdo himself.
The 6-foot, 175-pound junior receiver made a spectacular one-handed catch with Maiden pinned deep in its own territory on 3rd down and 20. The play resulted in a 64-yard gain for the Blue Devils.
"What a fantastic catch," Snider said of the play. "Jake made a great throw, but Justus just reached out there and pulled it in with one hand. I thought he was going to break it all the way, but it was a great play. It got us out of a deep hole … (Woods) has been on the verge of doing those things all year long. He got a chance tonight to do it."
Woods said he was caught off guard by McRee's toss.
"I didn't know he was going to throw it to me," Woods said. "I knew I had my guy beat, so I knew (McRee) was going to throw it. I realized I needed to catch that ball. I caught the ball, ran for it and broke a tackle. That's all I could do. I'm happy I made that catch."
Maiden, which led 16-0 at halftime, gave up its first touchdown since South Iredell put 33 points on the Blue Devils in a loss on Sept. 28.
Personal foul and pass interference penalties helped move the Wildcats down into Maiden territory, where they converted on a 1-yard run from quarterback Donnie Patton.
Up 10 points, Bess helped the Blue Devils add some insurance with five seconds left in the third quarter on a 1-yard plunge of his own to extend Maiden's lead to 17.
Draughn's next drive was aided again by Maiden penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call on second down and a face mask on third down. Those mistakes led to Dominique Patterson's 4-yard touchdown run, which gave Draughn its final score with 6:17 left in the game.
Maiden was able to get the football back on a long onside kick return by Woods, who dashed down to the Draughn 15-yard line before being taken down.
"I didn't see that coming," Woods said of the onside return. "I knew somebody was going to block. Coach said get what we could get, run to the house and make a play on it. I just did."
However, Maiden turned the ball right back over when McRee was intercepted for the first time by the Wildcats' Cole Huffman.
The turnover didn't hurt the Blue Devils, who forced a lengthy missed field goal attempt by Draughn and ran out the remaining time to pick up the victory.
The Blue Devils will be seeded No. 1 in the playoffs after a successful draw earlier Friday between the CVAC's trio of champions.
Snider said being seeded first helps take a huge load off of his team.
"I don't have any idea of who we will play," he said. "I've seen some projections on who we might play. I'd think we'll be in the small 2A. I don't know. I feel like South (Iredell) will be in the big 2A. Either way, we'll be the No. 1 seed. It means we are in the top four, plus it means we have a home first round game. That's really big."
McRee said the feeling of winning a conference title is irreplaceable.
"It's pretty great coming up here as a junior and getting a conference title under my belt," he said. "I'm looking forward to these playoffs and to next year. After the regular season is over, it is like everyone gets a burst of energy going into basically a new season in the playoffs."