By John Wareham
DANVILLE – The Blue Devils’ Max Payne was emotional after the game Friday night.
He played quarterback, running back and defense and he kicked field goals and punts in his final home regular season-game and led the Blue Devils to the 19-8 KMAC League win over Mt. Gilead.
After the buzzer, he realized the gravity of the moment.
“The last time walking off in the regular season, it’s a different feeling that I obviously haven’t felt before,” Payne. “I never understood it until this year. When the clock was running out, that’s when it hit.”
Danville (7-2, 4-1) took the lead early and held the Mt. Gilead two-headed rushing attack of Matt Bland and Garrett George in check to move into a second-place tie in the KMAC with Fredericktown.
It also sets up the season finale against arch rival East Knox, which has beaten this group of Blue Devil seniors every year they’ve played.
“I’ve been ready for this game (against East Knox) for seven months”, said head coach Matthew Blum. “I know our kids are too.”
The first half was tough sledding for both teams offensively, with Payne and Walker Weckesser doing much of the work for Danville and Bland for the Indians (4-3, 2-2).
Payne got the Blue Devils on the board with 12-yard scoring run and extra-point kick with 5:42 in the first quarter. The Danville defense then held and blocked a punt that went through the back of end zone for a safety (VIDEO) that gave the Blue Devils a 9-0 lead soon thereafter.
After another Mt. Gilead series that yielded little yardage, Danville got the ball again and scored another touchdown on a 12-yard pass play from Weckesser to Caleb Lucas (VIDEO). Payne added a 23-yard field goal with four seconds remaining in the half and Danville took the 19-0 lead into the break.
The second half was a defensive struggle – with the exception of the Bland 76-yard touchdown pass to Owen High with 6:11 in the third. The rest of the gamewas the Blue Devil defense chasing Bland all over the field.
“We (Danville) knew that (the Indians) were like a 80% run, 20% pass team. We knew their quarterback was shifty, he definitely was against us. I felt like we contained him pretty well for the most part, compared to others”, Payne said.
Bland finished the game with 71 of the team’s 77 rushing yards and he was 13 of 28 through the air with 203 yards and a touchdown.
Payne finished the game with 95 yards rushing on 18 carries, with one touchdown and two extra points.
Mt. Gilead finishes it’s regular season next week hosting Cardington, which has lost six straight.