Maize edges Derby in yet another instant classic

Maize tops Derby in a game of the year candidate, 52-51.
Published: Oct. 8, 2022 at 1:15 AM CDT
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DERBY, Kan. (Catch it Kansas) - What else should one expect when it comes to the AVCTL rivalry matchup of Maize and Derby? The past two years have been decided by one single point in each year and this year in story book fashion, had the Eagles taking it with a score of 52-51 - a one point victory.

“Just an amazing job never giving up. It was looking pretty scary there for a while and our guys never gave up,” Maize head coach Gary Guzman said. “We all knew it was going to be that type of a game. We all knew it was going to be a battle. We all knew it was going to be two scoring teams getting after each other and playing a close game like this. I’m proud of the guys.”

In the first half, Maize went up after a pair of touchdowns from Avery Johnson to WR Justin Stephens. Derby stuck right in answering with two rushing touchdowns of their own from Brock Zerger and Notre Dame commit Dylan Edwards.

But it was the defense and special teams’ big plays that were the story of the first half. Derby was able to strip the ball from Johnson, resulting in a scoop and score for Britton Pascual at the end of the first quarter to go ahead for the first time in the game, 20-14. They followed up by blocking a Maize punt for Colton Ruedy to return for a touchdown to put Derby up by 20 (!!) points.

Maize was able to chip away bit by bit on the back of the future Kansas State quarterback Avery Johnson. Johnson ignited the Eagle offense with a rushing touchdown to end the first half, one to begin the second half and one more for good measure halfway through the third quarter. Johnson went on to score seven all-purpose touchdowns and compile 516 offensive yards. (360 passing, 156 rushing)

“I feel like our offense was really explosive tonight,” Johnson said. “We were getting big chunk plays. I feel like when you’re down and coming back and you can score quick, there’s a little bit more hope there... Whenever we scored three plays coming out of the half it just brought life to us.”

Johnson also did it in the air late in this one, finding Bryce Cohoon and Bryson Hayes each for a touchdown to bring this one to a two point game. Derby responded with another Brock Zerger touchdown to keep their lead.

That’s when the theatrics began. Down to 3rd and 15 at midfield, Johnson fired a strike downfield to the other great performer of the game, Justin Stephens to set the Eagles up at the goal line.

“Credit to the offensive line, they did their job and gave Avery time back there to throw the ball,” Stephens said. “Us receivers we just go out there and compete, catch the ball and get the first downs and the rest does itself.”

They then ran the clock down and put the game in the hands of their sophomore kicker who had his punt blocked earlier in the game, and Mason Teague stepped up to the task.

“My heart was racing,” he said. “I knew I had to come back from that dropped punt. When I went out there I just did what I do and kicked it through the uprights.”

“Just him stepping up, being such a young guy, hasn’t played in this game before, he kind of stepped up to the plate,” Avery Johnson said. “He’s going to remember this for a long time.”

The Eagles survive their toughest test of the 2022 season and remain unbeaten, a perfect 6-0. They will take on a 5A AVCTL opponent next week in the Hutchinson Salthawks.