Separated by six miles in distance, Maiden and Newton-Conover added another classic to its storied football rivalry on Friday.
Behind the performances of Ricky Taylor and Grant Yowe, the Blue Devils pulled ahead early and held off a late charge by the Red Devils to come away with the 38-28 win at home.
Taylor made six catches for 120 yards and three touchdowns in the game.
“The second half kind of turned into the Ricky Taylor show,” said Maiden coach Frank Snider. “He is a heck of a player. He makes some things happen when he gets the ball in his hands.”
Yowe, who only had one carry last week against St. Stephens due to an ankle injury, added 120 rushing yards on 32 carries and two rushing touchdowns.
Key mistakes on special teams put Newton-Conover (3-2, 0-1) in a hole early.
Kicker Chandler Johnson missed a 42-yard field goal on the Red Devils' first possession of the game.
After stopping Maiden on its first drive, Newton-Conover stalled on offense and was forced to punt on its next possession.
The ensuing snap sailed over Johnson's head. He managed to fall on the ball at the Newton-Conover 15 yard line, but that gave the ball back to the Blue Devils deep in N-C territory.
Two plays later, Maiden quarterback Jake McRee found tight end Dakota Painter for a 15-yard score to make it a 7-0 Blue Devils' lead.
Newton-Conover answered on the first play of its next possession when N-C quarterback Kevin Cline found Marquis Pope on an 80-yard touchdown pass to tie the contest after one quarter.
Starting the second quarter, Johnson mishandled another bad snap on a punt. Maiden once again took over and capitalized two plays later with a 13-yard touchdown run from Yowe to put Maiden up 13-7 with 11:17 left until halftime.
"For whatever reason, the last two times we've done punt team practice, we haven't had everyone at practice, whether it be for injury or whatever it may be," said N-C coach Brint Russell. "We didn't have a lot of practice on that. It came back to bite us in the tail tonight. Two bad snaps and one botched catch by the punter. Two times on punt team we gave them the ball inside the 15. Those are two scores right there we gave away. In tight ball games, you can't do that."
Ten minutes later, Yowe added another touchdown from eight yards out to put Maiden up 19-7 at the break.
"I give credit to my offensive line," Yowe said. "They did a good job tonight. The receivers blocked outside tonight, as well. I just thank God for this victory. We're going to go on from here."
Enter Taylor in the second half.
The 5-11, 180-pound junior wide receiver helped put his team up 25-7 with a 52-yard reception for McRee on third down and four.
N-C wideout Nick Baker returned after taking a vicious hit in the first half on a kick return to give his team a spark in the second half. He helped his team answer Taylor's touchdown with a two-yard scoring run, cutting the Red Devils' deficit to 25-14.
"Nick is just a warrior," Russell said. "He is just one of those kids that doesn't want to be out of a ball game. He took a good shot. The first kickoff return was a really good shot. He had the wind knocked out of him pretty good. He bruised his rib. We thought he broke it. He took a helmet right to the ribs. It was bruised up really good. The doctors checked him out at halftime, said he was okay and that it was just a bruise. With the warrior he is, he came right back in there in the second half and went at it. It's a testament to him and the will he has to stay on the field."
On the next Maiden drive, Taylor caught his second touchdown pass from McRee — this time a 37 pass and catch — to make it a 17-point lead for the home squad.
"I kept telling coach all game to throw it to me," Taylor said. "I was open. He finally listened to me. They couldn't guard me."
Newton-Conover made the game interesting with scores on two-straight possessions, including a 21-yard pass from Cline to Josh Ramseur and a five-yard run from Baker.
Baker finished the game with 96 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.
Trying to run out the remaining 3:07 on the clock, Maiden stalled in Newton-Conover territory, but a bold move by the Blue Devil coaching staff would put the game away for good.
On fourth down, McRee connected with Taylor for 35 yards, scoring his third touchdown of the half and clinching the victory for Maiden in the process.
McRee finished the game completing 11-of-18 passes for 215 yards and four touchdowns.
"I have to give credit to (assistant) coach (Will) Byrne. He looked at me and said we might want to throw it," Snider said. "I thought it was a good call. Worse comes to worse, if they intercept it, it's like a punt. They'll have the ball down there if they intercept it. If they knock it down, they have it on the 35-yard line. We took a shot and it worked out."
Newton-Conover host Bandys (4-1, 1-0) next week, while Maiden travels to West Caldwell (0-5, 0-1).
Russell said his club will have to work hard in practice to prepare for the Trojans in another emotional rivalry game.
"We've got to regroup and get back to basics," he said. "Tonight, I can't count on one hand the amount of tackles we missed. I can't count on two hands, two feet and everything else on how many tackles we missed. We just did a very poor job of tackling, especially in the second half. It cost us. We've got to go back to going full speed in our tackling circuits in practice."
Yowe said the feeling of beating the Red Devils is indescribable.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "It's a wonderful feeling. There is nothing like it."