In the moments after a 22-20 win over Arkansas City in Friday’s Class 5A football playoffs, Maize’s players may have needed a reminder that they’re moving on to the second round.
Eagles coach Gary Guzman hung his head and pleaded for a more well-rounded performance next week, when Maize plays at Valley Center. The survive-and-advance mentality, at least in the immediate aftermath, was barely present.
Maize moved on in dramatic fashion, stopping a two-point conversion attempt after a 57-yard touchdown pass pulled Ark City to within two points with 33 seconds to go.”
“Obviously I’m proud of the kids, and I’m glad we get another week, but we’ve got to play better than what we did today,” Guzman said. “We just didn’t play well, and that’s frustrating. They got it done and I’m proud of them. I don’t want to take anything away from that, it just feels like we should have done better – could have done better.”
Maize survived plenty of potential obstacles, some of which it created. The Eagles started three first-half series beyond their own 46-yard line and didn’t score on any of them. They took turnovers on their first four drives – two on downs and two interceptions.
Ark City took the lead on a 17-play drive that started in the first quarter and ended with more than three minutes gone from the second and included one play longer than 10 yards.
But Maize stayed close despite playing a first-time starting quarterback, sophomore Caleb Grill, who subbed for injured Brayden Payne. Ark City’s focus on Maize running back Dalyn Johnson kept the game from becoming the shootout it was when the teams met last month, a 56-33 Maize win.
“The first time they learned that they needed to stop the running game to be able to beat us,” Johnson said. “That’s what they were kind of able to do. We started getting our running game after we got our few passes going and got a few touchdowns.”
Maize found the balance at the end of the second quarter and maintained it in the third. Its first touchdown drive, which put the Eagles ahead 8-7 after a two-point success, included 67 yards from Grill.
Payne may return next week from a shoulder injury, but Grill showed calm in guiding Maize to three scoring drives. When Maize took a 15-14 lead in the third quarter with six-play scoring drive, the big play was a 47-yard pass to Jordon Helm.
“He threw (three) picks and kept asking to throw the ball,” Guzman said. “He delivered. He did a good job. He’s a sophomore that we threw in there last week, and we asked him to step in there for a playoff game. It’s a tough difference, but he handled himself well.”
Johnson was stifled at times but finished with 162 rushing yards, scoring with 1:11 to go to put Maize ahead by eight. Ark City responded with a deep pass to score with 33 seconds to play, quarterback Brock Dowler’s only completion longer than 18 yards.
Maize’s defense answered the call on the conversion attempt, following a pattern from most of the night. When the Eagles’ offense was slow to get going, their defense surrendered one first-half touchdown to buy some time.
“We told the defense that it’s going to come down to you guys,” Guzman said. “We needed them to give the offense opportunities, and they did that. We just need to take advantage of those.”
AC—Brautman 10 pass from Dowler (Clark kick)
M—Shields 23 pass from Grill (Johnson run)
AC—Dowler 4 run (Clark kick)
M—Johnson 6 run (Jurgensen kick)
M—Johnson 35 run (Jurgensen kick)
AC—Watkins 53 pass from Dowler (pass failed)
Rushing—Ark City, Hockenbury 17-71, Dowler 24-62, Watkins 2-34, Robinson 3-4; Maize, Johnson 28-162, Grill 4-14, Schaeffer 1-7.
Passing—Ark City, Dowler 8-16-0-135; Maize, Grill 10-21-3-175.
Receiving—Ark City, Watkins 3-80, Brautman 3-28, Spencer 2-27.; Maize, Shields 4-42, Helm 3-70, Love 3-63.