WL Trace Gilmore

West Lincoln’s Trace Gilmore tries to find running room against a stingy Blue Devil defense on Friday at Thomas E. Brown Stadium in Maiden.

MAIDEN—Whatever adjustments Maiden made from its first meeting with conference foe West Lincoln, it all came together in impressive fashion Friday night at Thomas E. Brown Stadium.

The Blue Devils, who needed a late touchdown to escape with a 20-14 win when the Catawba Valley Athletic Conference (CVAC) teams met September 24 at West, scored on five straight first half possessions and breezed to a 47-0 victory in the 2A playoff rematch.

Maiden (12-0) advances to a third-round game this week at home against Salisbury, which defeated Bunker Hill, another CVAC playoff team, 49-0 Friday night. Salisbury won the state 2AA championship last year and eliminated Maiden en route to the title. West Lincoln ended its season at 9-3.

“We gave them two different looks defensively, and that created some problems for them,” Maiden coach Will Byrne said. “We felt like it would make a difference.. Our kids executed the game plan.”

This time, the Blue Devils dialed in on West Lincoln running back Mason Avery, limiting the prolific rusher to 57 yards on 18 carries. Avery’s only run of more than 10 yards came on his 16th attempt in the fourth quarter.

In the regular season game, both Avery and wingback Trace Gilmore rushed for more than 100 yards, and the Rebels piled up 263 yards on the ground. Friday night, the Rebels managed 125 yards in total offense.

The execution was also crisp for the Maiden offense as quarterback Ethan Rhodes threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another.

The Rebels had no answer in the secondary for Maiden wide receiver Chris Culliver, who hauled in touchdown passes of 24 and 77 yards against man coverage and finished with four receptions for 119 yards.

Rhodes completed 9 of 11 passes for 246 yards and had ample time to throw. His passing complemented a strong rushing attack led by Ben Gibbs (19 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown).

“Our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage and provided great pass protection,” Byrne said. “Ethan (Rhodes) was able to read the safety, and if they didn’t help, we figured our slot receivers could run by their guy and we could hit the seam.”

The opening series set the tone for the game. The Rebel defense was flagged for a horse collar tackle out of bounds, and later failed to stop Maiden on fourth-and-10 from the West Lincoln 24-yard line.

The next time Maiden had the ball, Rhodes threw a 22-yard scoring pass to Alec Hall for a 14-0 lead. On the first play of the second quarter, Rhodes hooked up with Culliver on the 77-yard bomb.

Later in the same quarter, Chayson Bass recovered a West Lincoln fumble at the Rebels’ 33-yard line, and the Blue Devils cashed in on Rhodes’ one-yard sneak to make it 27-0.

A one-yard run by Gibbs with 52 seconds left sent Maiden into the half with a 34-0 cushion.

West Lincoln’s offense generated only two first downs in the opening 24 minutes, and the Rebels were forced to punt three times.

In the second half, the Rebels crossed midfield once in four possessions and never threatened.  (Published November 15, 2021)

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