PAXTON — The Maxwell Wildcats used a stout defense and a power running game, along with eight fumble recoveries, to upset the Paxton Tigers in a Class D1 first round playoff game on Thursday, 40-12.
With 5 minutes, 56 seconds left in the second quarter, Paxton had cut into a 12-0 Maxwell lead. The Tigers defense forced a Wildcats punt and junior Tyler Schimonitz made a nice return to the Paxton 37-yard line to give the Tigers good field position. Two plays later, Schimonitz busted loose with a nifty run for 37 yards for the touchdown to narrow the gap. The point after pass failed and the score remained at 12-6.
Maxwell answered with a drive that began at its own 31-yard line. The Wildcats drove methodically down the field until Brandon Groseth, a 206-pound running back, leaped over the pile from the 1-yard line for the touchdown. The pass from Drew Riggs to Tanner Vedder was good for the PAT and Maxwell had a 20-6 lead.
Following the kickoff on the first play from scrimmage, Paxton fumbled and Maxwell recovered at the Paxton 37-yard line. Brandon Fletcher was given the ball on seven of the next eight plays and he put the Wildcats at first and goal on the Paxton 2-yard line with 19 seconds left in the half. A couple of plays gained nothing, but on third and goal from the two, Riggs threw a pass to Vedder as time ran out to extend the lead to 26-6 at halftime. The PAT failed.
Paxton received the second half kickoff and had a drive going with a first and 10 in Maxwell territory. But a fumble hit the turf and Riggs picked up the loose ball along the sideline and ran it in for a 42-yard touchdown that basically put the Wildcats in control, 24-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, Maxwell’s kicker punched the ball high in the air and it caught Paxton off guard. The Wildcats recovered the unintentional onside kick at the Paxton 32-yard line and two plays later, Brandon Fletcher zig-zagged his way to a 26-yard touchdown that put Paxton into a deep 40-6 hole and the Tigers were unable to recover.
Earlier in the season Paxton had defeated the Wildcats handily, 54-18, but this time Maxwell had the upper hand.
“We just got better all year long, every day,” Maxwell head coach Ryan Jones said. “We really proved that today. The ball hadn’t really bounced our way most of the year, but our kids have always fought hard. Even when we were losing they showed a lot of heart.
“We kind of got some breaks today and played absolutely outstanding and got a big ‘W.’”
Paxton put the ball on the ground nine times with eight of those fumbles recovered by Maxwell. Although Paxton intercepted a Maxwell pass late in the game, the turnover battle was definitely in the Wildcats favor.
“We learned from the last time we played them that some things they did on their cutbacks [left the ball loose] and we got some strips,” Jones said. “Our kids prepared well, learned from the game film and performed flawlessly.”
Maxwell will now host Arapahoe, another team that defeated the Wildcats early in the season, 52-14. Arapahoe is undefeated at 9-0, while Maxwell comes into the rematch with a 4-5 record, but with a lot of momentum with this big win. The game will be on Wednesday, Oct. 31 in Maxwell.