Marvin Ridge backup quarterback fuels comeback rally
The Weddington vs. Marvin Ridge series had taken on a green tint as the Warriors had won four of the previous five meetings, and many in convincing fashion, entering their showdown on Oct. 20.
The Warriors came out of the gates hot and grabbed an early 3-0, which swelled to 10-0 after quarterback Whitner Litton threw his first of three touchdown strikes, this one to Branson McGee.
The Warriors dominated the first half time of possession and held Marvin Ridge to just 34 yards of total offense before the Mavs final drive of the half.
“We had a lot of emotion to start and it was ugly at times,” Marvin Ridge coach Aubrey Carter said. “We stayed patient and executed the offense a whole lot better after that and got the running game going.”
Jason Stricker converted a 46-yard field goal four seconds before halftime to get Marvin Ridge on the board, albeit down 10-3.
“Our defense was on the field for a long time in the first half and for it to only be 10-3 at the half was probably the difference in the game,” Carter said.
Stricker hit a 29-yard field goal on Marvin Ridge’s opening drive to get the score to 10-6, but that’s when the scoring opened up.
After Marvin Ridge quarterback Bryce McLain hit Sean Brown with a 6-yard pass to give the Mavs their first lead at 13-10, Weddington responded late in the third quarter as Litton connected on a 68-yard strike to Will Shipley to put Weddington back up 17-13.
McLain drew a roughing the passer penalty early in the fourth quarter and remained on the ground for a while. He would not return, opening the door for junior Jake Cameron to run the Mavs offense in a big spot and trailing their rival.
“I didn’t see Bryce go down, but coach Carter looked at me and told me it was time to go in,” Cameron said. “It’s just another opportunity for me and I know I had to make the most of it, which I think I did.”
Cameron certainly responded, completing 3-for-3 passes for 28 yards and running four times for 25 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Cameron’s first touchdown run – from 20 yards out – put the Mavs up 20-17 and his second score put them up 27-17 with just 2:50 to play.
The play of the game for the Mavs – following another interception by Marvin Ridge’s Carson Cross, who set a county record with four picks last week and now has a county leading seven on the season – came on third and 15 when Cameron hit Brown with a key first down conversion that set up the Mavs final score.
“Bryce has been playing for us, but we have a ton of confidence in Jake and he came in and played and played well,” Carter said. “That play was huge. It was third and 15 and his primary read was to the wide side of the field. He came back to the opposite side and makes a heck of a throw to beat a tight window to keep that last drive alive and we went down and scored. It was a huge play.”
Cameron said he was able to go through his progression and find Brown, who made a spectacular catch in traffic.
“I didn’t see anything I really liked in the middle of the field so I came back outside to Sean,” he said. “Sean and I have played with each other since middle school and we have a really good connection. I knew he’d make a play if I put it on him and he did.”
The Warriors weren’t done though. Litton hit Shipley with a 10-yard scoring strike that cut the Mavs lead to 27-24 with 1:17 to play.
The Mavs recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt, but two plays later sure handed senior running back Caleb Deveaux – who ran for 141 yards on 14 carries – fumbled the ball back to Weddington.
Two plays later, the Warriors returned the favor, as Cole Hopkins – who also had three sacks in the game – forced a fumble and Zachary Stone recovered it to preserve the win.
After the Mavs slow start, they dominated on the ground, piling up over 300 rushing yards. Deveaux (141), Caleb Woodley (18 carries, 105 yards), McLain (14 carries, 35 yards) and Cameron (25 yards, two touchdowns) all played well.
“Our offensive line did a really good job of opening some holes and I thought our running backs did a really good job of being patient and finding the holes,” Carter said. “We could have easily put our heads down after we turned it over, but we came back with a huge defensive play to get it right back. After we fumble, and the thing that is nice about it, is one of our senior defense players came over and said ‘Hey, coach don’t worry we’ve got this.’ The kids responded and made a huge play.”
The Mavs, who improved to 9-0, travel to 7-2 Sun Valley on Oct. 27 while the 6-3 Warriors travel to 4-5 Monroe.
Litton finished the game 20-34 for over 300 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions and Shipley was well over 100 receiving yards for the Warriors.
“To limit them to 24 points is good,” Carter said. “They have some really explosive skill player guys and a really good quarterback. I would prefer these games don’t come down to the last possession, but I’ll take them anyway we can get them I guess.”