Second round the end for Maroon Devils
The Swain County High School Maroon Devils wrapped up their football season Friday, Nov. 17, falling to the Bessemer City Yellow Jackets 25-21 in the second round of the NCHSSA playoff championship. The Devils turned the ball over three times in the game with two lost fumbles and one interception.
“It was a frustrating game, the fact that we had three turnovers, you can’t have turnovers in a playoff game,” said Head Coach Neil Blankenship. “That’s the frustrating part. I feel like we hurt ourselves in that ballgame, and we should have won that game. We just didn’t handle the ball well, and we didn’t play well.”
The Maroon Devils led at halftime with a score of 14-12, and things were looking good after a long drive that ended with a touchdown and a point after to start the second half, but that was the last time the Devils would see the end zone. The Yellow Jackets turned up the heat on defense in the second half stopping the Devils on their next four possessions, and used their legs on offense to burn clock and score twice in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.
“They were quick…we didn’t get the long runs we normally get. They put a few more defensive backs back there and started taking (the pass) away because they knew we had to throw the ball at that point, that made it tougher to throw the ball,” Blankenship said.
“We shouldn’t have been in a position where we have to throw the ball, that’s the tough part about it.”
Despite the strong defense of the Yellow jackets, the Maroon Devils were able to accumulate a total of 261 yards of offense. Quarterback Brodie Bowman led the Devils on offense once again completing 15 passes for 82 yards and running the ball 13 times for 42 yards. Other leading rushers for the Devils were Ian Brooks with six carries for 24 yards, and Hunter Burrell with seven carries for 21 yards.
Brier Younce led the Devils’ receiving core with four catches for 120 yards, and Zeke Bradley had four catches for 62 yards.
The Maroon Devils defense held the Yellow Jackets to 209 yards of rushing and zero yards passing. Leading tacklers for the Devils were Ice Littlejohn with 16 tackles, William Paul and Wren Gunter with 10 tackles each, and Thomas Allen with nine tackles.
The Devils finished the season 5-1 in conference play, 8-5 overall, and were conference co-champions.
“Overall, we’ve had a good year. We were conference champions and you can’t take that away from them. I’m proud of them for that and the way they improved over the year, the way they kept fighting…they showed a lot of resilience. We won some big ball games and that has a lot to do with the seniors and their leadership. I’m proud of this team and what they’ve done,” Blankenship said.
Three Smoky Mountain Conference teams remain in the playoffs. Second seed Cherokee will play Thomas Jefferson in the third round, fifth seed Robbinsville will face Mitchell, and sixth seed Murphy will play East Surry.