Bryson City – The Maroon Devils picked up a big win Friday and moved to 2-0 to open the season for the first time since 2014. Just one year removed from a 56 point pasting at the hands of the Mustangs the Devils found some sweet redemption and perhaps more importantly proved they know how to win close games. Swain found ways to make big plays and took a 24-21 see-saw affair from Smoky Mountain.
Swain started out strong, controlling the game for the first quarter and a half. After holding Smoky on their initial possession the Maroon Devils took over on their own 20 yard line. The Devils shot themselves in the foot with two costly penalties.
Facing a 2nd and 14 from their own 31 yard line the Devils gave a glimpse of what was to come. Junior quarterback Damian Lossiah hit sophomore Gaige Jones in stride down the home sideline. Jones was knocked out of bounds at the Mustang 20 yard line, for a 49 yard gain.
Swain then got a 16 yard gain from junior running back Bryce Sain. Sain’s carry set the Devils up with a 1st and goal from the Mustang 4 yard line. Three plays later it was Sain who punched it in from the 1 yard line to put the Devils on the board. Gavin Lanning made the extra point to extend the lead to 7-0.
It would be the Maroon Devil defense who came up big on the next series. Smoky Mountain drove the ball to the Maroon Devil 30 yard line, where they faced a 4th and 1 for a crucial first down. Colby Kirkland, Ian Brooks and Jake Langston combined to stop Will Frady for no gain.
The Swain offense took over and promptly drove 67 yards in 7 plays, before the Mustang defense held the Devils on the 3 yard line. Facing a 4th and goal from the 3, Coach Neil Blankenship elected to go for a field goal. Sophomore Gavin Lanning calmly connected on his first career field goal, from 20 yards out, to give the Maroon Devils a 10-0 lead just minutes into the 2nd quarter.
The two teams exchanged possessions before Smoky found the endzone just before halftime. Facing 2nd and 4 to go from the Maroon Devils 37 yard line, the Mustangs only had 19 seconds remaining. Chris Wilburn hit Darien Bird, who beat the Swain defense for a 37 yard touchdown. The point after was good and the two teams headed to halftime with the Devils on top 10-7.
In the second half the two teams would exchange the lead, and provide the fans at Swain County Memorial Stadium, Boyce Deitz Field with some outstanding football.
After holding Swain to a 3 and out the Mustangs went on their longest drive of the night, covering 61 yards on 14 plays. Dustin Stephens scored from 3 yards out to give Smoky Mountain their first lead of the night. The extra point put the Mustangs up 14-10.
Swain would answer on their next possession, one that carry over to the fourth quarter. The Maroon Devils would cover 62 yards on 10 plays. Damian Lossiah scored on a 24 yard scamper, which put the Devils back on top. Lanning drilled the extra point to make the Swain lead 17-14. None of which would have happened had Neil Blankenship and the Maroon Devils not gambled. Facing a 4th and 5 from their own 43 yard line, the Maroon Devils executed a fake punt. Damian Lossiah, who was back to punt, found sophomore Donnavin Groenewold open for a 15 yard gain that would keep the drive alive.
With 6:47 remaining the Mustangs drove 65 yards on 7 plays to re-take the lead. Smoky Mountain would utilize Dustin Stephens on 6 of the 7 plays. It would be Stephens who found the endzone from 8 yards out to give the Mustangs the lead again. The extra point was good giving Smoky Mountain a 21-17 lead with 4:37 left in the game.
Swain responded in short order. After an intial run and penalty netted the Maroon Devls 7 yards, they faced a 1st and 18 to go from their own 24 yard line. Damian Lossiah hit an open Connor Hyatt in stride near midfield. Hyatt did the rest, as he outraced the Mustang defense for the go ahead touchdown. Following Lanning’s extra point the Maroon Devils had the lead again at 24-21.
It would be Hyatt again, who came up big for the Devils. On the Mustangs next possession, they fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. Hyatt came from his secondary postion to cover the ball just before it would go out of bounds. The Hyatt recover gave Swain the ball back on the Mustang 49 yard line.
From their the Maroon Devils gained a first down and successfully ran out the clock for the win.
On offense the Maroon Devils out gained the Mustangs 401 to 280. On the ground Bryce Sain racked up another 100 yard rushing game, finishing with 122 on 17 carries. Damian Lossiah eclipsed a 100 yards as well, finishing with 103 on 15 carries.
Lossiah was also efficient through the air finishing 6 of 13 for 168 yards, a career high for the junior signal caller. Connor Hyatt also notched a career high with 2 receptions and 86 yards. Donnavin Groenewold had 3 catches for 33 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was Jake Langston who led the way. Langston finished wtih 13 tackles. Cody Long added 10, while Lucas Brown and Ian Brooks finished with 7 each to pace a very balanced defensive effort from the Devils.