#9 in the series - Mauldin Mavericks

Despite being the biggest underdog on Friday night, don't tell Coach Abercrombie and Mauldin that it can't be done. They know they have what it takes to make it to Columbia.

In the first round of the AAAA Division II playoffs, Mauldin used a 20-play drive to upset Dutch Fork, 16-7. The drive was capped by a touchdown run by Marques Stewart (who carried 14 times on the drive), to give the Mavericks a 10-7 lead with 50 seconds left to play.


          In last Friday's second round, the Mavericks forced seven Hanna interceptions, and Andrew Coin kicked a game-winning field goal with 1:02 left, as Mauldin upset the Yellow Jackets 13-10.


            This Friday, when Mauldin (7-6) travels to Byrnes (12-1) for a chance to play for the Division II state title, they may need about five 20-play drives and seven more interceptions again.


            And that still may not be enough to beat the Rebels.


            When these two teams hooked up in Week 3 of the season at Mauldin, Byrnes won 34-7 in a game stopped at the half due to lightning.


            Mauldin head coach John Abercrombie had seen all the lightning he wanted too in the first half thanks to Justin Fulbright and the Rebels' offense.


            In The Greenville News game story the next day, Abercrombie was quoted as saying, "They are probably the fastest football team I've ever seen in high school, and I've been coaching a long time. They've got so many people who can run."


            The game stats echoed Abercrombie's comments.


            In that one half, Byrnes rolled up 430 yards of offense on just 27 plays (which included six incomplete passes). Mauldin's defense, which has been the team's backbone this season, obviously can't give up 15.9 yards per play and stand any chance to be competitive this Friday.


            Mauldin likes to take advantage of their big linemen both on offense and defense. They have seven of them that check in at over 260 pounds. But in football these days, speed beats size virtually every time.


            So Mauldin's strategy will have to be to try and keep the Rebels offense off the field. They will probably try to run the ball and run the clock as much as possible . They should rely heavily on the running of Stewart, who at 5-foot-4 symbolizes what Mauldin has had throughout this improbable playoff run – heart, courage and a never-say-die attitude. Even an old Hillcrest Ram like me has to admire how they've shown these qualities.


The junior running back has 1,373 yards rushing and 14 TD's this season. He's also 2-for-2 on halfback passes, including a TD throw that accounted for the Mavs only score in a 17-10 loss at Dorman. Byrnes held Stewart to just 38 yards on 14 carries in their first game this season.


On defense, the Mavericks are forcing an average of three turnovers per game, including 22 interceptions this season. The only team that hasn't committed a turnover against Mauldin this year is – you guessed it – Byrnes. Mauldin will obviously have to create some this Friday.


All signs point to the clock striking midnight on Mauldin's Cinderella playoff run this week, and Byrnes should win convincingly.


But don't tell that to Mauldin. They don't know the meaning of the word "underdog."

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