DENVER –– East Lincoln figured it’d need four quarters of solid football to knock off Maiden.
Turns out it only needed a half.
Chazz Surratt had 264 total yards and five touchdowns, Damarius Valentine returned an interception for a score and the Mustangs defense held the Blue Devils to season lows in points and yards as they rolled to a 42-0 win on Friday and clinched at least a share of the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference title.
Surratt completed 10 of 16 passes for 138 yards and a TD, and rushed for 126 yards and four scores in a game that got out of hand early between a pair of state-ranked teams.
“It wasn’t easy early, and we were fighting, getting some tough yards early. But I thought for us to fight through that part of it … was real important because it kept us from getting into a back-and-forth game,” Mustangs coach Mike Byus said. “Coming out of halftime, I urged our kids to not be satisfied and to come out here and play this thing and finish it.”
That they did.
East Lincoln (6-4, 6-0), ranked third in the latest statewide 2A Associated Press media poll, and its tops-in-the-league defense held the seventh-ranked and previously undefeated Blue Devils (9-1, 5-1) to 131 total yards and kept them from earning win No. 500 in program history.
Conference passing leader Jake McRee was held to a season-low 107 yards passing on 14 of 31 attempts. He was also picked off twice, once by Valentine, who returned his 72 yards for a score in the second quarter, and the last by Sam Krehnbrink.
East Lincoln now has 11 interceptions –– six by Valentine –– this season.
“Our defensive coaches, they put together a good game plan for our kids every week, and I couldn’t be prouder. Our kids play good team defense. They fit where they’re supposed to fit,” Byus said.
“There’s a couple things (the Blue Devils) really like to do, and we tried to make sure we didn’t let them do those things.”
Maiden was also held to a season-worst 24 yards rushing.
“Hard work pays off. We watched film all week and we knew what to expect down and distance, we knew what their strengths were and what they were throwing at us,” East Lincoln senior defensive lineman Coryio Boyd said.
“We just played hard, and it all paid off.”
Surratt scored on runs of 1 and 7 yards, and connected with Chris Tomberlin for a 59-yard scoring pass that led to a 28-0 Mustangs lead at halftime. Surratt added a 10-yard score at the 10-minute mark of the third quarter, and scored again on a 1-yard run with 3:01 left in the third for the final margin.
East Lincoln, which won for the sixth straight week and extended its conference winning streak to 17 games, can win its fourth league championship outright under head coach Mike Byus with a win at West Lincoln or a Maiden loss to Lincolnton next week.
Byus thought Friday’s game would be a little more competitive. But after moving the ball with ease on their game-opening drive, the Mustangs couldn’t be stopped.
Surratt completed 4 of 6 passes on the drive, and Billy Misenheimer did the dirty work in the red zone, rushing for 12 yards on three carries, the last of which set up Surratt’s 1-yard run.
East Lincoln scored on three of its six first-half possessions, and had 212 yards at the break.
“We’ve definitely got a share of (the title), and we’d like to win it outright, but that’s next week. Right now we’re going to enjoy this part of it,” Byus said.
With their offense proving to be unstoppable, the Mustangs defense did the stopping.
In addition to holding the Blue Devils to season lows in points, passing yards and rushing yards, and the two interceptions, East Lincoln kept Maiden out of the red zone and it crossed midfield just four times.
The Blue Devils never made it beyond the East Lincoln 40.
“We had some intense practices, working our butts off in practice every day,” Boyd said. “They’re a good team, and we had to do what champions do.”