MAXWELL — Patrick Gardner made the biggest play of the game Wednesday night.
The senior nose tackle for Arapahoe read a Maxwell screen play with six minutes, 22 seconds to play and intercepted Drew Riggs’ pass, setting up the winning touchdown for the Warriors in a 16-0 victory over Maxwell.
Gardner would rumble 26 yards, and a Maxwell penalty moved the ball to the 6-yard line. Two minutes later, Gage Schutz would go in from 2 yards out on third down capping the Warriors’ second round playoff win.
“It was a great play by our [nose tackle],” Arapahoe head coach Dustin Sealey said. “We’ve been talking about screens all week, and he talked about intercepting them up until this point in the game, so it’s kind of neat that he actually did it. That was just a big play.”
The Warriors managed just 133 yards on offense against a stout Maxwell defense. Maxwell head coach Ryan Jones said the Wildcats switched to a 3-4-1 alignment for Wednesday’s game, and blitzed all night, confusing the Warrior front.
“Their defense, man, they were coming like crazy,” Sealey said. “They were coming from everywhere. It was craziness – people standing up everywhere and coming from every direction.
“We were just doing the best we could, following our blocking rules and hitting the holes, but it was tough.”
Arapahoe scored first on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Caden Weverka to Dakota Schroeder, and Weverka added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
On the subsequent drive, Maxwell senior running back Brandon Fletcher broke the longest play of the game, a 66-yard scamper from his own 5-yard line, but he was tripped up before he could score. The Warrior defense would stop the Wildcats from scoring four plays later.
“If we get in there on that big run, and it’s 8-6, it could be a different ball game,” Jones said. “I was so happy with the way everybody played. They left it all out on the field and that was a good second round playoff game.”
Weverka led the Warriors in rushing with 57 yards on 23 carries, while Schutz had 46 yards on 14 carries and the touchdown.
The Wildcat defense would hold the Warriors scoreless for more than two quarters after their first score.
“I thought Wyatt Strickland and Taylor McKeeman did a wonderful job at middle linebacker getting through those blitz gaps and putting pressure on them,” Jones said. “Our defense came to play today and played really, really tough,” Jones said.
However, the Warrior defense also held strong, stopping the Wildcats on downs deep in their own territory several times. Maxwell had 177 total yards on offense, with 93 of them coming from Fletcher, on 21 carries.
“We gave him a lot of carries and he earned that this year,” Jones said. “He runs hard. He broke that one and about got in there.
“That was huge, but he just got tripped up there at the end.”