FRIDAY FOOTBALL: Maiden advances over Polk County, 41-27

After giving up 27 first half-points to a potent Polk County offense, Maiden’s Blue Devil defense tamed the Wolverines.

Maiden’s defense refused to allow a second-half score while its offense piled up points on the ground, and the Blue Devils collected a 41-27 victory in Round 2 of the N.C. 2A state playoffs.

The Maiden win sets up second showdown with nearby neighbor Lincolnton. Lincolnton defeated Draughn 42-14.

“We haven’t won a playoff game in a while, and its good to go to the third round,” said Maiden coach Brian Brown.

Maiden’s one-two punch of Matt Johnson and Will Jenkins was lethal, particularly in the second half. The pair combined for four second-half touchdowns and 463 rushing yards in the contest. After a first-quarter touchdown, Johnson rushed for three more in the second half, as well as a team-high 248 yards. He also connected with Dustin Hipps on a 15-yard touchdown pass in the first half.

Despite a first-half injury - described by Brown as charley horse, Jenkins scored on a 91-yard third-quarter run, and rushed for 213 yards.

“I hurt my leg, but I wasn’t going to let it keep me out of the game,” Jenkins said. “We wanted it more than they did. We came out and played harder than they did, and we just made plays.”

In the first half, however, it seemed Polk County made all the plays. At halftime, Maiden trailed 27-14, thanks to three touchdown passes from Alec Philpott to Joel Booker. The duo combined for 108 passing yards in the opening half, while Philpott also added a 24-yard touchdown scamper. A pair of first-half turnovers - one fumble and one interception added to Maiden’s woes.

“The kids kept playing,” said Maiden Coach Brian Brown. “That’s what we told them at halftime - just keep playing, keep playing. Its a long game, a long game.There was a lot of football left to be played. They believed us for some reason.”

The Blue Devils also made some adjustments on defense.

“There was some stuff that we weren’t recognizing in the first half,” said Maiden senior quarterback and safety Matt Johnson. “We came out and got that taken care of.”

Maiden opened the second half with a seven-play, 62-yard drive. Johnson scored on a nine-yard run, and Ian Oliver brought Maiden within six points, 27-21.

On Polk County’s ensuing drive, Maiden stopped the Wolverine attack, forcing a punt.

Five plays later, Johnson found the end zone again on an 11-yard run that finished a five-play, 79-yard drive. A failed PAT left the score tied, 27-27, with 1:09 left in the third quarter.

The Wolverines rebounded, thanks to a 50-yard pass from Phillpott to Booker and threatened to take a lead. Maiden didn’t let it happen.

With Polk County at the Maiden five-yard line, blitzing Blue Devil Dakota Painter forced a fumble recovered by Richard Kerekes.

“At halftime, the coaches were all over us,” said Maiden defensive end Dakota Painter. “We knew we were better than them. We were being more physical.”

Two plays later, Jenkins shook off a charley horse to outrun the Polk County team for a 91-yard score.

Again, the Wolverines seemed to rebound, despite 20-unanswered scored by Maiden. They marched to the Maiden 13, before the defense stiffened and Polk County turned the ball over on downs with nine minutes left to play.

Polk County barely saw the ball again.

Maiden methodically marched 87 yards in 14 plays to eat up 6:32 off the clock.

“The biggest thing when you are in the playoffs, your main prize a state championship,” Johnson said, adding that to earn that prize the team has to play with an attitude to “get it done.”

“That is exactly what the offensive line did tonight,” he said.

Johnson concluded the drive on a three-yard run to help put Maiden ahead 41-27.

In the game’s final two minutes, Maiden’s Jose Campos intercepted a Philpott pass, while Hipps intercepted a Polk County lateral to help seal the win.

Next up, Maiden travels to Lincolnton. The Wolves defeated Maiden 35-10 on Aug. 19.

“They’ve got speed,” Painter said. “We’ve got to keep them contained, score on offense and stop them on defense. We’ve got to go hard - play harder than they do.”