Coming into Friday night’s highly anticipated South Fork 2A conference game between East Lincoln and Maiden, the Mustangs needed to find a way to win a close game against their league rival.
The past three meetings between the two teams had been decided by one, two and three points, and all in favor of the Blue Devils.
This battle for first place in Denver between a pair of unbeaten teams again went Maiden’s way, and the 46-38 loss by the Mustangs drops them into the number two spot for now with yet another very important contest on the horizon.
With the Blue Devils already leading 7-3 early in the second quarter, East Lincoln sophomore quarterback Tyler Mizzell’s pass was intercepted by Maiden’s Jacob Sigmon who returned the picked-off pass 71 yards for a score. Carson Foard’s point after made it a 14-3 lead, and the Mustangs would be left playing catch-up all night.
Blue Devil quarterback Ethan Rhodes connected with Brennan James on the first of his three touchdown passes on Maiden’s next possession to make it 21-3. Rhodes would later hook up with Chris Culliver 23 yards out with just 4 seconds remaining in the half to extend the Blue Devil lead to 27-17 at the break.
And after a 30-yard touchdown run from senior running back Amarion Craig early in the third quarter, Maiden would get their biggest lead of the night at 40-17 with 3:06 to play in the period on a 30-yard pass from Rhodes to Culliver.
And while East Lincoln (4-1, 3-1) would try it’s best to fight and claw their way back into the contest, they were never able to get the ball back in their possession while down just one score.
A 25 yard scoring run down the right sideline by Mizzell got the Mustangs to within eight at the 1:24 mark in the fourth and final quarter, but the ensuing onside kick went out of bounds and the Blue Devils (4-0, 4-0) were able to run out the clock for their fourth consecutive one-possession victory over East Lincoln.
Rhodes finished the night completing 12 of his 22 pass attempts for Maiden, for 190 yards and three scores. Culliver, a sophomore receiver and defensive back, had five receptions for 86 yards and the pair of touchdowns.
Mizzell was 16 of 23 passing for the Mustangs, for 216 yards and a score, while also running for a pair of touchdowns.
Lucas McConnell had a pair of receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown for East Lincoln.
Paulie Menegay led the Mustangs’ rushing attack with 93 yards on 14 carries, with a pair of scores.
TURNING POINT: The Jacob Sigmon 71-yard pick-six for Maiden early in the second quarter seemed to just take some of the life out of the Mustangs, and they were never able to fully regain momentum.
UP NEXT: East Lincoln will travel to West Lincoln next Friday, with the winner likely getting the number two playoff spot out of the SF2A Conference. Maiden will play at Newton-Conover with an opportunity to clinch the top seed out of the SF2A Conference.
Maiden 7 20 13 6 - 46
East Lincoln 3 14 7 14 - 38
(Published March 29, 2021)