Searching for a boost against St. Stephens, Maiden turned to Will power.
Senior Will Jenkins, who had 243 yards on the ground coming into Friday’s game, rushed for 157 yards on eight carries and returned a kickoff 94 yards for a score. That performance helped surge the Blue Devils (2-2) to their first home win of the season, 36-10, against the Indians (0-4).
“It was a good win,” said Blue Devils coach Brian Brown. “We needed it. Will is playing as good as anyone that we’ve got. He is a playmaker. We’ve got to get the ball in his hands in different ways. We did a little bit tonight. He’s a good player, a senior and has been on the varsity three years. We expect that. It’s no surprise to us. It may be to other people.”
Jenkins, who was involved in a car accident earlier in the day with four other Blue Devils, credited his teammates for his performance.
“Our line blocked really well tonight,” Jenkins said. “They gave me some good holes to run through. Especially on the kickoff returns. They blocked well. I just used my speed and ran it back. I just made some plays.”
Maiden struggled early. A promising first drive stalled and the Blue Devils had to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Ian Oliver.
St. Stephens also struggled offensively against the Maiden defense in the first half, netting 22 yards of offense, including -26 yards by quarterback Ky’rawn Whitfield (-7 passing, -19 rushing).
“Defense played well,” Brown said. “Every day at practice, it seemed like we had a different set of linebackers in there. We still have people out and people dinged up. We are moving people around, trying to find the right pieces to the puzzle. I think they played well tonight. I think our defensive coaches did a great job.”
After getting the ball back for their second possession, Maiden’s drive again stalled. The Blue Devils settled for a 40-yard attempt by Oliver, but the try was missed on fourth down.
The third drive was the charm for the home-standing Blue Devils. Following a 32-yard field goal by St. Stephens’ Nick Bryant, Jenkins took the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for the score.
Jenkins continued to spark his team two possessions later, when Maiden took the ball 49 yards in three plays. Included in the drive was a 31-yard run by Jenkins and a 7-yard touchdown run by Caleb Ikard, to put the Blue Devils ahead 17-3 at halftime. Jenkins finished the half with 72 yards of total offense, including 65 rushing yards on four carries and one catch for 12 yards.
“We challenged our kids,” Brown said. “We felt like we have good character kids that aren’t going to lay down on us. We had our backs to the wall, came and played tonight. I know St. Stephens hasn’t won a game, but they aren’t a bad team. They haven’t given up a lot of points and have played people close. I thought we played well tonight after the loss last week.”
The Indians offensive outlook changed in the second half. Quarterback Matt Williams delivered a 38-yard pass to open the half, but the drive led to no points. The team’s second drive of the half worked to perfection.
St. Stephens drove 80 yards in 13 plays, including 52 rushing yards from Jon Sweet. He finished the drive with his longest run — a 13-yard scamper — to cut the Blue Devil lead to 23-10. Sweet finished the game with 26 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown.
Answering back immediately, the Blue Devils put the game away by scoring on consecutive drives, going 51 and 47 yards for scores. Ikard rushed for a 19-yard score, his second of the game. Grant Yowe added a nine-yard touchdown run. Ikard finished with 10 carries for 50 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought we played really hard,” said Indians coach Fred Whalen. “I thought we actually came out with a little more fire than last week. It’s tough to lose a game when Maiden is ramming it down our throat with our offense, which we see every single day. Offensively, we got in the red zone five times and got 10 points. We’ve got to score when we get down there.”
The Blue Devils will try to use the win going into next week’s conference opener and annual rivalry against Newton-Conover.
“It was really big win,” Jenkins said. “It’s a good momentum swing. It just gives us momentum going into the conference. Newton-Conover is a big rival. We just want to beat them.”