All it took for Maize to top the top-ranked team in the state was the belief that a win was even possible. The Eagles beat Salina South 40-28 on Friday night.
“We really believed we could win this game,” Maize quarterback Connor Lungwitz said. “I think that was the biggest part, because we believed we could win the game and then actually went out and did it. It was preparation all week.”
The Eagles took the field looking confident, and it was obvious by Lungwitz’s passing game — he completed 22 of 30 for 145 yards and four touchdowns.
“Lungwitz is a great player, and I thought they picked us apart,” Salina South coach Sam Sellers said. “He got the ball to his receivers, and his receivers made plays. Once you start getting worried about the pass they’re going to run it on you. That’s a tough offense to stop.”
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Maize made a statement early in the first quarter, holding Salina South scoreless while Lungwitz combined with Kendall Stewart for a touchdown.
Only 45 seconds into the second quarter, Salina South quarterback Justin Stonebraker passed to Aaron Mar for a nine-yard touchdown. The Cougars maintained control of the game, holding Maize’s offense to three yards before regaining possession.
With 3:38 remaining, Mike Jones carried the ball 23 yards for another Salina South touchdown. But Maize quickly moved the ball down the field, and Lungwitz found Kaven Jobe in the endzone for a two-yard touchdown to tie the score with 50 seconds remaining in the half.
Maize kept the Cougars scoreless in the third quarter, while Lungwitz combined with Chase White for a touchdown and Tyler Marrero ran for another short touchdown, giving Maize a 27-14 lead entering the fourth quarter.
But Salina South played to its No. 1 ranking, when Stonebraker passed to Zach Nachbar for a 47-yard touchdown.
“(Salina South) runs the ball well,” Maize coach Gary Guzman said. “We had to keep that run under control, and they have to come up with the pass. They got behind our secondary with two big plays there.”
Lungwitz combined with Colton Helm to answer Salina South, but 22 seconds later, Stonebraker found Nachbar behind the defense again for a 76-yard touchdown to inch within five points of the Eagles with 53 seconds remaining.
“We need to figure out that we can’t wait until those times to make those big plays, and it’s frustrating to see that at the end when you’re scoring on one play, and that didn’t happen at all the whole game,” Sellers said.
Maize recovered the ensuing onside kick at Salina South’s 48-yard line, and two plays later White took off through the Cougars’ defense for a 48-yard carry and a touchdown to seal Maize’s 40-28 win with 38 seconds remaining.
“It was huge, but I didn’t relax until the game was over,” Guzman said. “It was one of those things where they can return a kick, and we got it out of bounds, then of course you’re worried about another long pass if they get behind you, there’s no time left on the clock, all of those things go through your mind.”
Maize celebrated a win Friday night, but a game with Derby awaits next Fridy.
“It was a huge game for us, and the kids made a statement tonight, but it’s only one game,” Guzman said. “We have another huge game next week against Derby, so we’ll enjoy it tonight, but we’ve got to get ready for Derby. We’ve got a very tough league, a very tough district, and we’ve got to show up like this every night.”
Salina South finished with nine penalties, and struggled to gain yards on offense, despite its final two touchdown passes totaling 123 yards.
“The number of penalties and mental breakdowns tonight were way too much to overcome,” Sellers said. “You don’t win games in this league doing the things we did tonight.”
|Salina South (1-1)||0||14||0||14||—||28|
M—Stewart 7 pass from Lungwitz (Sanchez kick)
S—Mar 9 pass from Stonebraker (Kraus kick)
S—Jones 23 run (Kraus kick)
M—Jobe 2 pass from Lungwitz (Sanchez kick)
M—White 5 pass from Lungwitz (Sanchez kick)
M—Marrero 3 run (kick failed)
S—Nachbar 47 pass from Stonebraker (Kraus kick)
M—Helm 9 pass from Lungwitz (two point conversion failed)
S—Nachbar 76 pass from Stonebraker (Kraus kick)
M—White 48 run (Sanchez kick)
Rushing—Salina South, McCullough 4-21, Jones 20-77, Stonebraker 11-62, Fox 10-33. Maize, White 18-153, Lungwitz 3-9, Davis 1-2, Stewart 1-8, Marrero 1-3.
Passing—Salina South, Stonebraker 11-14-196-0. Maize, Lungwitz 22-30-145-0.
Receiving—Salina South, Nachbar 5-160, Mar 4-20, Marcotte 2-16. Maize, Helm 2-16, Stewart 4-16, Davis 3-22, White 4-6, Jobe 9-85.