Going into Friday’s game at Gurley Stadium, Maiden quarterback Matt Johnson never beat the Red Devils of Newton-Conover.
“Not in middle school and not in high school,” the senior said. “I have never done it.”
He made up for all those losses — and then some.
Johnson rushed for 337 yards and six touchdowns to help lift the Blue Devils to a 62-39 victory over Newton-Conover.
The win was the first by Maiden in the series since 2006, and it was also the first time Maiden’s Brian Brown scored a victory as head coach against Newton-Conover.
The victory gave the Blue Devils a 21-20-1 lead in the all-time series against their neighbors to the north.
“Crazy. It was crazy,” Brown said of the offensive shootout. “Our offensive line was incredible. Matt was incredible. That’s what we expect from him every night, but some nights aren’t going to be like that.”
Brown attributed much of the Blue Devils’ success to Maiden’s offensive scheme.
“We gave them a little bit of a different look,” he said. “It was our version of the Wildcat, which they haven’t seen, and they had trouble adjusting.”
From that offensive attack, it seemed Newton-Conover couldn’t stop the Blue Devils. Johnson ran the ball 19 times, and every time, it appeared multiple Red Devils were required to bring him down. Other times, he simply out-ran the Newton-Conover defense.
“I can’t even put it into words,” Johnson said. “We came out here and we wanted to play this game. The only reason it happened for us tonight is because the good Lord let it, and it takes blocking. It takes 11 guys to put the ball in the end zone, and I think everybody played together tonight. They allowed me to do what I can do best.”
On touchdown runs alone,Johnson amassed 247 yards, with an average of more than 41-yards per score carry. He scored on runs of 40-, 44-, 79-, 23-, 23- and 38-yards.
“It was the Matt Johnson show tonight,” said Newton-Conover coach Nick Bazzle. “I tell you right now that boy was impressive. I think he just made it a goal of his at the end of last year that he was going to be the best he could be his senior year. That is what happens when you make a commitment in the off-season.”
From the game’s start, the contest had the makings of a high-scoring affair. Maiden’s Jose Campos caught a pass from Johnson and raced 74 yards for an apparent score on the Blue Devils’ first play from scrimmage. That play was reversed on a penalty, but Maiden was undaunted.
On the next play, Johnson handed the ball to Will Jenkins, who passed it to Dustin Hipps for a 69-yard scoring strike.
On Newton-Conover’s ensuing kick-off return, Nick Baker raced 78 yards to help even the contest, 7-7. Before the opening quarter ended, Johnson scored on a 40-yard run, Baker added another touchdown, and the Red Devils trailed 14-13 going into the second quarter.
Johnson added two more touchdowns before halftime, and Maiden’s Maurice Ikard added a pair of one-yard touchdown runs, as well.
Newton-Conover tried to keep pace. Red Devils quarterback Kevin Cline scored on a four-yard run, but while the Blue Devils seemed to score on nearly every possession, the Red Devils only assembled one second-quarter scoring drive.
At halftime, Maiden led 41-19.
After both teams fumbled on successive plays to start the second half, Newton-Conover narrowed the margin to 16 when Cline connected with Jayme Arnold on a 26-yard touchdown pass. In the second half Cline added a seven-yard touchdown run and another seven-yard scoring pass to Arnold.
Cline finished with 32 rushing yards and two touchdowns, as well as 81 passing yards, two touchdowns in the air and an interception. Jervasse Moss led Red Devil rushers with 121 yards, while Matt Coulter added 72.
“I am proud of my kids for continuing to battle,” Bazzle said. “Offensively, we kept sticking it in there, trying to score, and I am proud of them for that. We just had letdowns defensively, and of course, No. 8 just showed what he is good at.”
For each Newton-Conover second-half score, Maiden had an answer with Johnson, who scored all of the Blue Devils' second-half touchdowns. On the ground, Jenkins rushed for 98 yards on nine carries.
“You come to high school and you play four years and then you are gone,” Johnson said of the motivation for his off-season work. “I wanted to leave a legacy for this school, and I wanted people to remember my name. I wanted to be there for my school.”
With the win, Maiden improves to 3-2, while Newton-Conover falls to 3-2. The Red Devils travel to Bandys (4-1) next week, while Maiden hosts West Caldwell (0-5) for homecoming.