A broken wishbone usually means good luck, but in Maiden’s football game Friday against Lincolnton, it was anything, but favorable.
The Blue Devils (0-1) racked up 179 rushing yards in the implemented wishbone offense, but only 43 of those were tallied in the second half. Maiden lost its opener to Lincolnton, 35-10.
Quarterback Matt Johnson was held to 2-of-8 passing for 10 yards. His most viable contribution to the team was the running game, where he rushed 15 times for 89 yards.
“They are a good team,” said Maiden coach Brian Brown. “We knew that going in. If we are going to beat a good team or a better team, we are going to have to play better."
The Wolves gobbled up the Maiden defense, rushing the ball 38 times for 279 yards and all five scores. Dee Littlejohn led the Lincolnton rushing attack with 13 rushes for 99 yards and two scores. Michael Cunningham also rushed for two scores on his six rushes for 42 yards.
After trading two early possessions, the Blue Devils got their wishbone offense going full steam, leading to a lengthy drive. The drive included two first-down runs by Matt Johnson and one by Maurice Ikard on a gutsy fourth-down call.
“The wishbone gave us the best chance to win,” Brown said. “Lincolnton is pretty good and has some good athletes. They have a lot better athletes than we do. Our passing game was not going to be effective against them. They have some kids that are 6-foot-3 across the back of the secondary. They also have more speed. We thought our best chance was to go right at them. I thought it was a good idea and still think it is a good idea. If we were playing them tomorrow, we’d do the same thing. That was the game plan."
Despite the momentum, the Blue Devils drive ended on a fumbled snap from center Corey Miller to Johnson. The Blue Devils fumbled three snaps during the game, losing one of them.
“That’s a lack of concentration and a lack of focus,” Brown said. “We’ve got to play better. We’ve got a quarterback (Johnson) that shouldn’t do that. If he is going to lay it on the ground, we are going to struggle.”
The Wolves capitalized on their next possession, which carried from the late first quarter into the early moments of the second. Michael Cunningham capped the 11-play, 71-yard drive with an 11-yard scoring run."
After another deep drive by Maiden, including four first downs and a conversion on fourth down, the Blue Devils scored only three points from the foot of kicker Kyle Kelly.
Lincolnton quarterback Patrick Rendleman led his team on next drive by going 59 yards on seven plays. He capped the drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper.
The very next play changed momentum in the game in favor of the home team. On the ensuing kick off, Maiden senior running back Will Jenkins ran 70 yards to give the Blue Devils their first touchdown of the season, cutting the deficit to 14-10.
That long and exciting play fired up the Blue Devils’ defense, which delivered a 1-yard loss to Rendleman on a run followed by a illegal procedure penalty.
On the very next play, defensive back Jose Campos came up with another huge play for Maiden on second down. The junior intercepted Randleman, giving the Blue Devils an opportunity to score before the first half ended.
Lincolnton had other plans, stopping Johnson on an attempted run inside the 10-yard line with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. The Blue Devils were unable to stop the clock with no timeouts remaining.
“That’s a play we’ve got to make,” Brown said. “We had a receiver over the middle wide open. We made a first down play with an easy throw. We throw the ball well all the time, but we’ve got to make those plays.”
After the two teams traded possessions to start the second half, it was all Littlejohn for the Wolves. The senior running back rushed five times for 21 yards and a touchdown to put the visiting team up 21-10. The game appeared to be slipping from the Blue Devil’s grasp.
“We shortened the game in the first half,” Brown said. “We didn’t in the second half. They beat us up front. We weren’t able to do much offensively. We had some chances and a hand full of plays that, if we make, it’s a closer game. I’m not saying that it would have been a closer game, but we didn’t make them.”
The Blue Devils’ offense struggled in the second half with a combined 53 yards, including 43 rushing and 10 passing.
Putting the game away late, Littlejohn added his third score of the night on his longest run — a 20-yard scamper to put Lincolnton ahead 28-10.
The Wolves added a final score on a long 16-yard run by Cunningham with just under a minute remaining in the contest.
Maiden will try to rebound next week with its first road game of the season. The Blue Devils travel to North Lincoln for a game against the Knights.