MAIDEN — It’s tough to beat the Maiden football team with a full — or mostly full — complement of players. So far this season, no team has been able to do so.
On Friday night, Bandys rolled into Thomas E. Brown Stadium missing nine starters, including several key skill players. And while the Trojans stuck close for a while, the Blue Devils ultimately cruised to a 46-0 victory over their Catawba County foes, surpassing 40 points for the fifth time this season.
“They had a bunch of guys out, we had three guys out too, but they played hard,” Maiden coach Will Byrne said of Bandys. “... I’m just proud of our kids for continuing to play hard and guys that are stepping up in those positions that we’ve got guys out, they’re doing a good job. And any time you get a win against a rival, it’s great.”
After receiving the opening kickoff, Maiden (7-0, 4-0 Catawba Valley 2A Conference) drove to its own 49-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. However, the Trojans did nothing on their initial possession, as the Blue Devils forced them to punt after gaining just 1 yard in three plays.
Following a Maiden punt on its second series, Bandys (2-3, 0-3) used a 5-yard run from Nolan Jones and an 8-yard scamper from TJ White to pick up its lone first down of the opening quarter. But the Trojans’ drive stalled when White was stuffed for a 3-yard loss on fourth-and-two, giving the ball back to the Blue Devils at their own 35.
Maiden made Bandys pay this time. After Chris Culliver gained 21 yards on a jet sweep to the right side, Ben Gibbs notched a 44-yard touchdown run on the following play before Carson Foard converted the extra point to put the hosts up 7-0 with 54.1 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Bandys picked up two first downs on the ensuing drive, the first on an 18-yard pass from Wyatt Wesson to Jones and the second on a roughing the kicker penalty. But the Trojans had to punt once again, with Culliver returning it all the way to the Bandys 24 and scoring two plays later on a 24-yard TD pass from Ethan Rhodes.
Maiden added two more scores in 43-second span later in the second quarter. Isaiah Thomas blocked a punt that was recovered by Gibbs in the end zone with 1:49 left until halftime, while an interception by Chayson Bass led to a Blue Devils scoring drive that ended with a 7-yard TD strike from Rhodes to Culliver at the 1:06 mark. Despite blocking the extra point, Bandys trailed 27-0 at the half.
The Blue Devils tacked on three more TDs in the third quarter to bring the running clock into play. Gibbs scored from 1 yard out with 7:18 on the clock before intercepting a pass 58 seconds later, with Thomas registering a 15-yard TD run on the next play. Then Culliver returned a punt for a TD of 30-plus yards less than three minutes later to account for the final score.
“We started off a little bit flat, but that’s my fault,” said Byrne of his team. “I thought I had them ready to play, but my playcalling at the beginning was not up to par and we weren’t moving it. But kudos to them (Bandys) and their staff for doing a good job preparing to slow us a little bit early.
“Once we got going and we started clicking and our guys started playing hard,” he added, “everything took care of business from there.”
Gibbs led all rushers with 113 yards on 11 carries, while Rhodes completed 7 of 15 passes for 85 yards. Jacob Sigmon was Maiden’s leading receiver with three catches for 41 yards, with Culliver hauling in three receptions for 32 yards.
Bandys’ Caleb Moore finished with 22 yards on seven carries, while Jones accounted for 31 yards of total offense (13 rushing yards, 18 passing) and also had the visitors’ only takeaway on an interception late in the second quarter. The Trojans were outgained 236-78 as a team and managed six first downs as compared to nine for the Blue Devils.
Maiden now turns its attention to a road showdown with Bunker Hill next Friday. The Bears visit East Burke on Monday in a game that was postponed from Friday, with a win setting up a matchup of unbeaten teams next week in Claremont.
“They’ve got a great football team, got a good football staff,” said Byrne of Bunker Hill. “It’s gonna be a great game, conference championship ultimately on the line possibly. We’ve worked for this all year ... and hopefully we’re gonna get one or two of those guys back next week which will help as well, but these guys that have been stepping into those roles know that they’ve got to be able to step up and be ready to play if need be.
“We’ve just got to be, like we always say, laser focused one week at a time,” he continued. “And now it’s Bunker Hill and it’s the one everybody thought might happen, now we’re here.”
As for Bandys, it is currently scheduled to host Newton-Conover next Saturday. The Trojans were also slated to host East Burke on Tuesday, but due to the Cavaliers moving the game against Bunker Hill to Monday, that contest will now be played on Tuesday, Oct. 26.
Notes: Three former Maiden football players were inducted into the Blue Devils’ Wall of Fame prior to Friday’s game, as Jamie Pope (1978 graduate), Mackie Reinhardt (1975) and Marty Little (1972) were honored. Reinhardt died in 2002 and was represented by his brother Nathan, while Pope and Little were on hand with members of their families.... At halftime, Maiden honored members of its 1971 Western North Carolina championship football team (the 2A classification only held regional championships from 1961-71), which finished 10-1-2 and won its last nine games.... A moment of silence was also observed before the game in remembrance of Holsum “Papaw” Parker, a longtime Maiden fan who died last October.... In addition to the interceptions by Bass and Gibbs, Maiden also received fumble recoveries from Quinn Rembert and Cameron Gore.
Bandys 00 00 00 00 — 00
Maiden 07 20 19 00 — 46
M — Ben Gibbs 44-yard run (Carson Foard kick), :54
M — Chris Culliver 24-yard pass from Ethan Rhodes (Foard kick), 6:43
M — Blocked punt recovered by Gibbs in end zone (Foard kick), 1:49
M — Culliver 7-yard pass from Rhodes (kick blocked), 1:06
M — Gibbs 1-yard run (kick blocked), 7:18
M — Isaiah Thomas 15-yard run (pass failed), 6:14
M — Culliver 30-plus yard punt return (Foard kick), 3:49
First Downs: Bandys 6, Maiden 9
Rushes-yards: Bandys 43-60, Maiden 26-151
Comp-Att-Int: Bandys 1-5-2, Maiden 7-15-1
Passing yards: Bandys 18, Maiden 85
Fumbles-Lost: Bandys 6-2, Maiden 4-0
Penalties-yards: Bandys 7-60, Maiden 6-55
RUSHING — Bandys: Caleb Moore 7-22, TJ White 12-21, Ian Moore 3-17, Nolan Jones 13-13, Elliot Spicer 2-5, Team 1-(-1), Wyatt Wesson 5-(-17). Maiden: Ben Gibbs 11-113 and 2 TDs, Chris Culliver 2-24, Zane Williams 3-17, Isaiah Thomas 1-15 and 1 TD, Ethan Rhodes 4-1, Jacob Sigmon 1-1, Team 2-(-9), Josh Stover 2-(-11).
PASSING — Bandys: Wesson 1-5-2 for 18 yards. Maiden: Rhodes 7-15-1 for 85 yards and 2 TDs.
RECEIVING — Bandys: Jones 1-18. Maiden: Sigmon 3-41, Culliver 3-32 and 2 TDs, Gibbs 1-12.
Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record.