Trailing Bandys 14-10 at halftime, Maiden wasted no time taking control of the game in the second half.
“We were getting the ball in the second half, and we just had to make some plays,” said Maiden coach Brian Brown.
Maiden’s Will Jenkins was the first Blue Devil to answer his coach’s challenge to “make some plays.” He returned the second half kick-off 53 yards. Four plays later, Jenkins raced 36 yards into the end zone to score his second touchdown of the night and give the Blue Devils the lead for good.
“I give all the thanks to my linemen. They blocked great tonight and gave me some great holes,” said Jenkins, who finished the night with three touchdowns and 192 yards on 10 carries for Maiden, “After that, I just used my speed to take it to the house.”
With the score coming with 1:26 into the third quarter, Maiden took a 17-14 lead, and never looked back on their way to a 31-21 win over cross-county rival Bandys.
The win improves Maiden to 4-4 overall, but more importantly, it gives the Blue Devils a 3-1 record in Catawba Valley Athletic Conference action. At the same time, it breaks a tie with Bandys, which falls to 6-2 overall and 2-2 in conference play, and gives the Blue Devils the advantage for a playoff berth.
“This puts us in a better position to be conference champs,” Jenkins said.
The seasons is far from over, however.
“Obviously, it is important to keep us hanging around to see how the season plays out,” Brown said. “We have several more games to go, and we have got to play well to win.”
The early going of Friday’s game was a defensive battle until Bandys’ Dominique Young ended a four-play, 80-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown run.
Maiden answered when Jenkins’ 21-yard touchdown run tied the game after a 10-play, 81-yard drive.
On the ensuing possession, Bandys fumbled and the Blue Devils’ Dillon Painter recovered the loose ball at the Trojan 17. Kicker Ian Oliver converted the turnover into points with a 34-yard field goal.
Bandys answered on a fourth down, as Jackson Gilliam rushed 35 yards into the end zone. It was the last time Bandys crossed the goal line.
“It is just unfortunate. It was exactly what we thought it would be — it would go one way or the other,” said Bandys coach Randy Lowman. “Of course, we did our thing and used up all our bullets a little bit.
“In the second half, their offense ... which can score points and in a hurry, and with a kid like (Jenkins), he can break big plays on us and he did,” he added.
After Jenkins opened the half giving Maiden a lead, the defense held Bandys possession after possession.
“It was extremely important (to stop their offense),” said Maiden’s Dakota Painter. “They ran like crazy and have some good running backs, and it was very important to stop them to win.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Maiden attacked with the one-two punch of Matt Johnson and Jenkins. Johnson finished the night with 90 yards and a third quarter touchdown on 17 carries. He passed for 90 yards on six completions in 16 attempts. Jenkins added a 65-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“We had some players make some plays,” Brown said. “I thought our guys kept fighting, and Matt made some plays. It was a good effort by everyone.”
One misfire for Johnson and the Blue Devils came in the game’s waning minutes. Bandys’ Keaton Allen intercepted a Johnson pass and Tewon Smith cashed in the turnover with a 22-yard touchdown run for the Trojans. Smith finished the night with 70 yards on the ground. Dominique Young rushed for nearly 100 yards and a score, while Gilliam added 80 yards.
Next week, Maiden hosts East Burke, before traveling to Bunker Hill and Draughn in the weeks that follow. The Trojans will travel to South Iredell and East Burke before ending the season at home against Bunker Hill.