For the second straight week, Nate Johnson solidified his spot as the Blue Devils’ starting running back.
Johnson led Maiden in rushing for the second-straight game and made the game-changing play in the second half at home against Draughn.
One play after Draughn cut Maiden’s lead to 21-14, Johnson ran left on a sweep. He ran out of room, escaped tackles, reversed field and ran 73 yards up the right side for his third touchdown of the game.
The Blue Devils led 27-14 after the play and won their final game of the regular season 33-14 over the Wildcats.
“We’re just getting ready for the playoffs,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to come out strong, to finish games strong, and I think we’re going to do that.”
Johnson ran for a game-high 194 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries. Maiden head coach Brian Brown said Johnson made “big plays” all season and the Blue Devils now expect him to keep making those plays.
The win at Maiden gives the Blue Devils a third-place finish in the Catawba Valley 2-A. The Blue Devils won their final four games and ended the 2010 regular season with a 5-2 conference record and 8-3 record overall. Maiden finds out Saturday who its first playoff opponent is when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association releases the pairings.
“It doesn’t matter who our opponent is, we are going to go to and give 110 percent,” Johnson said. “We are going to play four quarters of Maiden football.”
Draughn ended the season tied for fourth place with West Caldwell in the Catawba Valley 2-A. The Wildcats ended the season 3-4 in conference play and 3-8 overall with wins over Bandys, Bunker Hill and East Burke.
The Wildcats, however, are already looking to the 2011 season. Draughn returns 17 starters next season and loses only eight seniors.
“We’re excited,” Draughn head coach Scott Lambert said. “The CVAC is as tough 2-A conference as there is. We rolled off three straight wins against people that beat us handily before.
“We’re proud of the way we played, and we certainly think we have a bright future.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 14-point lead after their first two drives ended on 1- and 11-yard touchdown runs by Johnson for a 14-0 lead. Quarterback Matt Johnson connected with Holden Cox in the second quarter for an 8-yard pass and a 21-0 lead.
Matt Johnson ended the game with less than 100 yards passing and less than 100 yards rushing. He was 9-of-17 passing for 95 yards, and he carried the ball 13 times for 87 yards.
His final pass attempt fell incomplete on fourth down at the Wildcats’ 17, and it ended a 19-play, 63-yard drive. Draughn converted that turnover into points on a 4-yard touchdown run by fullback Jordan Moore, and it trailed 28-14.
“We got off to a good fast start, lost interest and thought we were going to cruise on to the win,” Brown said.
Nate Johnson’s 73-yard touchdown run on the next drive ended the third quarter and shattered the Wildcats’ dreams of a come-from-behind win over the Blue Devils.
Maiden ended the game with 26 first downs and converted 7-of-9 third-down opportunities. Hasan Hopper led the Blue Devils with four catches for 43 yards, and Holden Cox had two catches for 16 yards and a touchdown.
Wildcat running back Dustin Bryant had a team-high 71 yards rushing and a touchdown on eight attempts. Quarterback Keith Loomis ended the game 2-of-8 passing for 19 yards and an interception.