It wasn’t the first time Caden Cox has jumped over a defender in a game this season, but it was by far his favorite.
The Maize junior running back did his best to go viral on Friday night, going airborne once again to completely clear a Salina Central safety in the third quarter of the Eagles’ 48-26 victory over Salina Central to improve to 7-0.
Cox said it wasn’t so much a spur-of-the-moment decision, rather his frustration of being tackled low culminating. When he took the handoff and burst through the hole, Cox estimated he elevated as high as he ever has to hurdle over the charging safety who ducked his shoulder for the would-be hit.
“You gotta have faith,” said Cox, who finished with 147 rushing yards and a touchdown. “If you hesitate, you’re going to get hit pretty hard. It’s going to be bad.
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“It’s probably my favorite move. It’s definitely the one that looks the best. Everyone is like, ‘Woah.’”
Cox has now hurdled four defenders this season, but none were as clean as his one on Friday.
Even his teammates were looking for a second replay to watch a play that left them in awe.
“I don’t know how he’s not a hurdler,” Maize senior offensive lineman Elijah Owings joked.
“It’s kind of scary sometimes, but this one tonight was his best one all year,” Maize quarterback Caleb Grill said. “It was awesome. I’m so happy for him because he loves football so much and those highlight plays will get him more looks hopefully.”
Maize coach Gary Guzman echoed Grill’s sentiment about the play being potentially dangerous, but even he was left admiring Cox’s play.
“You’ve got to have athleticism to do something like that,” Guzman said. “He got pretty high on that one. I’ve seen him hurdle before, but this was quite the hurdle.”
It was the top highlight in a night full of them by the Maize offense.
Once the Eagles hit their stride in the second and third quarters, they were scoring nearly at will. When Salina Central brought an extra defensive back on the field, Cox had his way in between the tackles. When Central loaded the box, Grill (18 of 29 for 286 yards and five touchdowns) picked the secondary apart.
When Salina Central’s Taylon Peters busted a screen pass for a 66-yard touchdown to trim Maize’s lead to 10-6 just before halftime, Grill and the Maize offense took the field 70 yards away from the end zone with 40 seconds left and no timeouts.
Two plays later, Camden Jurgensen sped past his defender and Grill connected with him over the top of the defense for the answer: a 60-yard touchdown strike to restore Maize’s lead to 17-6.
And that might not have been Grill’s finest moment of the night. On a fourth down play, Grill switched the ball to his left hand while being tackled and shuffled it to the sideline to Cox for the first down. In the fourth quarter, Grill electrified Maize’s sideline with a pancake block down the field on an end around.
“That just shows you we’re all buying in,” Owings said. “We have our QB1 down the field pancaking a kid 10 yards down the field. We’re all bought in.”
Grill connected with Deriq Doty and Camden Jurgensen for two scores each and KJ Hampton once, as the Eagles’ lead was never threatened in the second half.
While Maize’s defense gave up a season-high 26 points, Peters, who was averaging 217 yards per game, was limited to 50 yards on 18 attempts on Friday.
Now the Eagles have set up an undefeated showdown with Derby, also 7-0, that will decide the AV-CTL Division I championship next Friday at Maize.
“No team at Maize has ever started 7-0 before,” Cox said. “We just want to keep leaving behind our legacy.”