Maize South played its first football season in 2009 and its 2-6 record did not come as a surprise. It was a young team with no seniors — a team still getting a feel for itself.
With back-to-back wins over El Dorado and Winfield this season, the Mavericks are 2-1 and will try to keep their win streak intact against Clearwater (2-1) tonight.
Coach Brent Pfeifer has Maize South believing it can stay with opponents. The Mavericks may not expect to win every game, but they want to be playing their best by districts in three weeks.
"We've got a sense of toughness," Pfeifer said. "Last week we played a good Winfield team, and they had a really good third quarter against us. It would have been easy for us to fold. But this team knows we can't do that if we wanted to. They buckled down and showed a lot of toughness and grit last week."
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The Mavericks gave up 13 consecutive points in the third and fourth quarters of that game and saw their lead shrink to a point. But after that the defense held. The offense rallied behind junior quarterback Drake Dukes and senior tailback Aaron Wondra to respond with a 14-point fourth quarter.
Senior lineman Josh Thompson plays on both sides of the ball. He's battled in the trenches to get a push for Dukes, and he's scrapped for a defense that blanked El Dorado in a Sept. 10 win and held Winfield to 13 points last week. He understands that last year's young team might not have sustained a lead over Winfield. It hadn't matured enough.
"We can't use our experience as an excuse," Thompson said. "Last year we'd be pumped, but everybody had it in the back of their heads that we didn't have a senior class. That's why we lost. Now it's different. We have to step it up because we don't have that excuse anymore. We're not that team anymore."
Maize South's offensive numbers don't jump off of the page. Pfeifer preaches team play and uses the run to set up the pass. In their two wins the Mavericks have spread the ball around in the backfield. Dividing the carries between Wondra, Dukes and fullback Nehemiah Scott, the Mavericks rushed for 324 yards and four touchdowns in their two wins.
This mentalility is a result of the prior year's development.
"Last year I think it was a lot of getting to know the kids and the kids getting to know the coaching staff," Pheifer said. "We tried to build and establish an unselfish attitude, and I think that unselfishness has really proven some great success for us." Thompson said the seniors must set the expectation level for the program.
"The pressure is good," Thompson said. "Even having pressure from the other schools saying, 'Maize South isn't going to do any good.' Everyone thinks we're going to suck. And it's nice to get the opportunity to prove everybody wrong."
For senior tight end/linebacker Jace Nibarger, the only motivation needed every Friday is the scoreboard.
"We want to keep winning," Nibarger said. "It's not really so much the pressure to win that's keeping us going. We're the underdogs, we have everything to prove."