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Historic Maize season ends in State Title game

Published: Nov. 27, 2021 at 6:26 PM CST
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PITTSBURG, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - Maize fell short of completing a late comeback to bring home the program’s first state title in a 28-14 loss to Mill Valley in the 5A State Championship game.

The Jaguars have now won three straight class 5A titles.

“Our team has nothing to be ashamed of, they had a great year and they battled every game,” Maize Head Coach Gary Guzman said. “Our defense gave us opportunities today, but offensively we just couldn’t get into rhythm the way we have been doing all year. Mill Valley is a very good football team, and we knew defensively they would be strong. We had to do something offensively to give ourselves a chance and we didn’t do that.”

The Jaguars would intercept Maize star quarterback Avery Johnson twice in the first half and take a 14-0 lead into the break.

“They schemed for us well and they have great coaches and come here every year and have a lot of experience playing in big games, that played a little role,” Johnson, who finished with 335 total yards and two touchdowns, said. “We got off to too slow of a start offensively. In past games when we would get off to a slow start, we just come back and fight our way back. When you start slow against a great team like Mill Valley, it doesn’t end how you want it to.”

Down 20-0, the Eagles offense would finally start to find momentum late in the third quarter, when Johnson connected with Aiden Doty to put the Eagles on the board.

On the next Jaguar drive, Maize junior defensive back McKinley Joynes forced a fumble on what could’ve been a long touchdown run to keep the Eagles hopes of winning its first title alive.

“We put our defense in some tough situations, but they were able to overcome those things and give us opportunities in this game,” Guzman said.

Just a few plays later, Johnson broke loose for a 68-yard touchdown run to cut Mill Valley’s lead to 20-14 early in the fourth quarter.

But the Jaguars didn’t bat an eye, marched down the field and completed an 80-yard scoring drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Hayden Jay to Jared Napoli to once again give Mill Valley a double-digit lead.

“We got it within six, but they turned around, had a long drive and made phenomenal plays for the touchdown,” Johnson said. “We can’t just rely on our defense over and over again to get stop after stop for us. We needed to step up and be the offense we were all year, but it just wasn’t our day today.”

The Eagles historic season ends with a 10-3 record.

“We need to soak this in and pay attention and remember the little stuff,” Johnson said. “If we get in this position again, we’re not going to lose again.”

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