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Maroon Devils secure second seed

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Swain County High School Maroon Devils defeated the Black Knights of Robbinsville Friday, Oct. 27, in a thriller, winning the game with a field goal by Holden Petty with just 2 seconds remaining on the clock.  

With their fourth straight win in conference play, the Devils secured their second place standing in the Smoky Mountain Conference.

“The thing we’ve taken care of (tonight) is this— we’re second seed, and that’s big,” head coach Neil Blankenship told his team after the game.  

Swain remains in second place behind undefeated Cherokee after both teams won Friday night.  Cherokee and Murphy will face off next week to determine if the current record stands, or if they end up with a three-way tie atop the standings.  If Murphy should pull off the upset, that would leave three teams at 5-1: Cherokee, Murphy, and Swain.

“Right now we’re second seed for the play-offs. Depending on what happens with Cherokee and Murphy, we could be co-champs,” Blankenship said. “If we’re co-champs, we’ll draw for seeding and we could end up one, two or three seed out of the draw.”

Coach is hoping for the co-champ designation.

 “I really hope they can get to be co-champs,” Blankenship said.  “The way they’ve responded late in the season, these kids continued to fight. After losing to Cherokee, we had some naysayers. They could have hung their heads, but they kept fighting.  I’m more proud of that than anything.”  

Fight the Devils did on Friday night.  Swain scored first on a 62-yard run by quarterback Brodie Bowman.  Petty, back in the game after missing the previous four games with an injury, kicked the extra point giving the Devils a 7-0 lead.

In their next possession, Robbinsville drove for 62 yards and on third and eight at the 18-yard line, quarterback Alex Bridges completed a pass to Ian Wiggins in the end zone. The Black Knights tied it up at 7-7.

The first quarter ended with the Devils again in scoring position, with the ball on the 6-yard line.  Forty-four seconds later, Bowman completed a 7-yard pass to Zeke Bradley for a touchdown and reclaimed the lead at 14-7.   

The Maroon Devils were on offense first in the second half, but were unable to move the ball.  With fourth and one at the 31, they punted.  The Black Knights took possession at their 22.  They went the length of the field, and with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, on fourth and goal at the 1-yard line, quarterback Alex Bridges handed the ball off to running back Elijah Wood, who carried it into the end zone for the score.  The game was tied at 14-14.

On their first possession of the fourth quarter, on a fourth and three at their own 39 yard line, the Devils lined up to punt the ball but a personal foul penalty on the Black Knights gave the Devils a first and 10 at the 45.  Swain took advantage, moving the ball down to the 34-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Bowman took it in for the score, putting Swain back in the lead at 21-14.

After a blocked field goal attempt, the Black Knights took possession at their 24-yard line.  They moved the ball down the field and with 1:10 left on the clock, an 8-yard scoring run by Ian Wiggins and an extra point tied it up at 21-21.

Again unable to move the ball, the Devils faced a fourth and second at the 48-yard line with 32.4 seconds left on the clock.  The Black Knights were called for an offsides penalty, giving the Devils five yards and a first down.  With first and 10 at the 43, Bowman completed a 23-yard pass to Zeke Bradley for another first down. With two seconds left on the clock, Petty lined up to kick a 37-yard field goal.  The kick is up – and good! Swain took the lead, 24-21, with no time left  on the clock.

“Petty gives a weapon the other teams don’t have,” Blankenship said.  “I was glad to have him back in the game.”

The Maroon Devils gained a total of 262 yards of offense in the game.  Leading rusher was Brodie Bowman with 17 carries for 157 yards, followed by Hunter Burell with 13 carries for 48 yards. Ian Brooks added 18 yards on seven carries, and Bryce Sain had two carries for six yards.  Bowman passed for a total 33 yards, completing three of eight with one interception.  Leading receivers were Zeke Bradley with two catches for 28 yards and one touchdown, and Brier Younce with one catch for 5 yards.  

Kicker Holden Petty was three of three on extra point kicks and one of two on field goals.  Punter Tanner Wiggins punted four times for an average of 41 yards and a long of 49.

The leading tackler on defense was Ice Littlejohn with 11, followed by Nolan Brown with 10, William Paul with 8, and Dylan McLeod with 7.  Dylan McLeod and Holden Petty each had an interception.

The Maroon Devils will take on the Carolina Gladiators at home on Friday, Nov. 3.  The Gladiators are 0-10 on the season.  Even though it is a nonconference game, a win would be a great way to end season play before heading into the playoffs.  

“The Gladiators are a spread offense, which is what we’ll see in the play-offs,” Blankenship said.  They cause you to spread out the defense and play one on one. “That’s an advantage for the better athletes,” he said.  “The better athletes will win that battle.”     

“This week is about getting healthy and working on us,” Blankenship said.  “The kids are banged up, we need them fully healthy for the play-offs.” 

“We’ll try to get some of the younger players in the game, and get them some playtime,” he said.

Like with every game, the team will go into it prepared to work hard. 

“We’re playing with confidence, we’re excited about playing, (but) this week we’re working on fundamentals. We watched the game tape, looked at what we’re doing wrong and we’re working on that,” he added.

Friday night is Parent’s Night, and the coach said they’d like to see a big crowd come out and support the players and their families.

Smoky Mountain Times

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