MAIDEN, N.C. — Revenge is the best medicine. Increase the dose from least to most.
That’s what transpired on Friday night as the Maiden varsity football team outmuscled Salisbury, 32-20, in the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) 2A West state playoffs.
It was indeed a redemption game of sorts for the No. 3-seed Blue Devils (13-0) in front of a packed house at Thomas E. Brown Stadium.
This was a battle of the high-powered Blue Devil offense against the stout defense of the visiting No. 6-seed Hornets (11-1).
“People called me crazy when we scrimmaged the 4A West Forsyth team who is way bigger than us, way stronger than us, more speed than us, and we went toe-to-toe with them down at Mooresville High School,” said Maiden head coach Will Byrne. “After that scrimmage, I knew that this team could play with anybody. We played Christ School who had five kids that were college-age kids and they had six D-1 players, and we beat them in overtime.
“After that game, I really knew, and we as a team as players and coaches and a program knew that we can play with anybody if we played [to] our potential. The last few weeks the defense has been playing phenomenal, and we’re doing enough offensively to score enough points and get wins...It’s just a total team effort like it has been all year.”
Maiden staked its claim early as the tandem of senior quarterback Ethan Rhodes and junior wide receiver Chris Culliver won out big time.
Rebounding from his dismal performance against eventual state champion Salisbury during last season’s first-round playoff match-up at home on April 16, 2021, Rhodes fired on all cylinders.
He unofficially notched 314 yards and five passing touchdowns on a solid 17-of-24 clip (72 percent) with no interceptions thrown. It was quite the turnaround from the spring 2021 encounter as he threw five interceptions in that 52-12 loss.
“It’s awesome. It’s a huge revenge tour for us,” said Rhodes about beating Salisbury. “We played this game for us. We played this game for those seniors last year that had to walk off that field with their heads down because I underperformed. We came out, we got the win, and it’s incredible.”
As far as this third round affair, Rhodes connected to Culliver on four of his five TDs. Culliver gathered 205 yards on 10 receptions in the victory.
“I knew we was going to win the game,” said Culliver. “They tried to [contain me in the post] but they [couldn’t] do it.”
(Read full story in the Tuesday edition of the O-N-E.)