Devils seal win over Yellowjackets in final minutes of game

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Most coaches will tell you that conference games just mean more. With both Swain County and Hayesville coming into Friday night’s showdown holding a 1-3 record, the matchup carried an even greater significance. Following tough season starts, both teams needed the jolt of a win to them set off into the meat of the conference schedule.

A combination of Maroon Devil turnovers and Hayesville’s three-headed monster of Dwain Cook, Hayden McClure, and Jake McTaggart kept Swain County from ever finding a rhythm in the game.

Maroon Devils’ sophomore quarterback Damian Lossiah scored two touchdowns on runs of two and 26 yards in the first half, but Hayesville’s creative shuffling of Cook and McClure at the positions of quarterback, running back and wide receiver threw Swain County off. Sometimes, the two Yellowjackets lined up in the backfield together and there was no way to tell which one would field the snap. Other times, one would split out left or right as a wide receiver. For the game, Cook threw for 91 yards (and a touchdown to McClure), rushed for 61 yards and two touchdowns, and caught a 21-yard pass from McClure.

McClure completed five passes for 61 yards, rushed for 25 yards, and caught three balls for 55 yards, including the 41-yard touchdown dart from Cook.  Two of the scores came in the first half, and the score was tied at 14-14 at the intermission.

A three-yard touchdown run in the third quarter by Bryce Sain put Swain County up 21-14, a lead which they took into the final period. Hayesville looked to have Maroon Devil heartbreak on its mind as it marched over 80 yards on a drive that ate up most of the fourth quarter clock.

With 2:24 remaining in the game, Cook ran it in from three yards out to bring the Yellowjackets within a point at 21-20 as they lined up for the point-after attempt. There were murmurs in the press box that Hayesville might go for a two-point conversion to win the game outright, but they lined up for a kick instead.

The ball was snapped cleanly and the kicker got a good leg on it, but Maroon Devil junior Charlie Lambert was there to get a hand on it and send it fluttering to the turf like a wounded duck.

Swain County players and fans rejoiced, and the Devils recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt by Hayesville to seal the 21-20 victory.

“I just found the gap in their O-line and just jumped over them and blocked It, it kind of hurt,” Lambert said with a smile after the game. “It was an amazing feeling. The whole crowd stood up and cheered, it was just amazing.”

Despite the conference win, Coach Neil Blankenship feels his team’s effort and focus must improve if the Maroon Devils are going to beat Cherokee next week.

“I didn’t feel really good about our practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and I don’t think we were preparing like we needed to, and that’s what I told them after the game,” he explained. “In practice, you’ve got to get better and better every day. If you don’t get one percent better each day, then we wasted our time. At the end of the day, a win is a win, and you get a lesson from a win, but we’ve got to get better at preparing.”

Swain County moves to 2-3 on the year with the away game against Cherokee looming on Friday.

Smoky Mountain Times

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