In a battle of unbeatens, it was Maize South’s defense that proved to be the difference in a 24-17 victory over Andover Central at Maize South on Friday.
The Mavericks forced five takeaways, highlighted by a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by Harper Kennedy that tied the score in the first half and a Trevion Mitchell scoop-and-score from 33 yards out in the fourth quarter that secured the season’s biggest victory to date.
Maize South improved to 5-0 overall and now stands alone atop the AV-CTL Division II at 4-0.
“We build our team around defense and this is why,” Maize South coach Brent Pfeifer said. “When you play a really talented offense and you have skill guys like Andover Central has, you’ve got to have guys that can stop them or it’s going to get away from you real fast.”
And for the first quarter, Andover Central’s army of skill players looked like they were going to do just that.
Shomari Parnell was marching the Jaguars down the field with his legs and his arm, consistently finding Andover Central’s pair of dynamic playmakers out wide in Xavier Bell and Matt Macy. And if Maize South tried to key in on those three, Central running back Ty Herrmann would pop off a lengthy run.
But all of those yards only added up to a 10-3 lead for Andover Central after the first quarter.
Maize South flipped the game’s momentum early in the second quarter when Maize South blitzed and the pursuit from Calvin Benefiel and Garrett Huff rushed a throw from Parnell and Maize South linebacker Harper Kennedy intercepted the pass with his right hand and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to tie the game, 10-10.
“It gave our defense momentum,” Pfeifer said. “I don’t know if it changed the game as much as it gave our defense confidence and they needed that. It was a beautiful play by Harper.”
After Maize South took a 17-10 lead into halftime following a 10-yard touchdown throw from Colin Shields to Byron Fitzpatrick, the Mavericks’ defense once again delivered when Andover Central threatened.
That’s when senior cornerback Drew Wolf swooped in from the sideline to intercept a pass to end a Central drive deep in Maize South territory. But the Mavericks gave the ball back immediately on a fumble of their own.
On its first play, Andover Central dialed up a trick play: a reverse to Bell, who pulled up and heaved the ball 45 yards to the edge of the end zone. Macy was behind the defense, but Wolf was tracking back and timed his jump perfectly to beat Macy to the ball.
A brief wrestling match for the ball and it was Wolf who emerged with an interception — his second straight on consecutive plays.
“I wasn’t letting go for nothing,” Wolf said. “I didn’t know if he would, but I knew that I wasn’t.”
“On film, (Andover Central) came up with almost every one of those this season,” Pfeifer said. “It’s been a big play for them. Jump balls like that, they’re the ones usually winning them. They’re the state basketball champs, so they have guys that can get up there. We worked on (jump balls) a lot this week, so to see that actually play a part on Friday night was pretty cool.”
But Andover Central’s offense continued to bring pressure in waves. The Jaguars were driving once again for a potential game-tying score, but Maize South’s Colby Herrman forced a fumble and the ball popped off the ground straight to Mitchell, who raced down the right sideline untouched for the touchdown and 24-10 lead with 7:29 remaining.
“It took some weight off our shoulders, but we knew we had to still come back and finish,” Mitchell said. “We owe all of this to our defensive line. They played a game. If it wasn’t for them, none of that would have happened.”
Maize South’s standout play on the defensive line came from Benefiel, Blake Brogden, Jadin O’Reilly, Zach Saville and Peyton Wiechman. Benefiel finished with two sacks, while Brogden also added one. For Andover Central, Trey DeGarmo had a standout game with several big hits and a game-high 14 tackles.
Pfeifer also added that Maize South’s scout team of underclassmen had prepared the Mavericks well for Andover Central’s explosive attack.
“The scout team kids did a heck of a job getting our defense prepared,” Pfeifer said. “That defense is talented, but they’re not going to perform like they needed to without those young kids. They did a great job this week getting them ready.”
Andover Central added a quick touchdown — a 10-yard strike from Parnell to Bell — and had a final chance to tie the game, gaining possession on its own 32-yard line with 2:32 left. But the drive stalled out on its own end, as Maize South secured the win.
|Andover Central (4-1)||10||0||0||7|
|Maize South (5-0)||3||14||0||7|
AC—Parnell 2 run (Robison kick)
MS—Manske 30 field goal
AC—Robison 36 field goal
MS—Kennedy 34 interception return (Wiens kick)
MS—Fitzpatrick 10 pass from Shields (Wiens kick)
MS—Mitchell 33 fumble return (Manske kick)
AC—Bell 9 pass from Parnell (Robison kick)
Rushing—Andover Central, Herrmann 12-88, Rees 6-33, Parnell 13-5, Bell 1-2, Barkdull 3-0; Maize South, Niemann 25-95, Edwards 7-37, Fitzpatrick 3-20, Shields 4-11, Hall 1-(-4).
Passing—Andover Central, Parnell 16-38-4-154; Maize South, Shields 12-23-1-107.
Receiving—Andover Central, Macy 5-56, Kohman 4-56, Bell 6-29, Gawith 1-13; Maize South, Fitzpatrick 3-48, Vanderhoof 1-25, Johnson 3-14, Morris 3-13, Pfeifer 1-5, Niemann 1-2.