Several Derby players sat on the field in shock as Maize celebrated with its student section after taking a 36-35 win over the Panthers in 2020. It was the first win for the Eagles in the matchup since 2014.
The Panthers (5-0) are seeking some redemption at Panther Stadium on Oct. 15, but Maize (5-1) will not go down without a fight.
Maize is coming off a 49-27 win over district rival Maize South. Head coach Gary Guzman will have to find the recipe for success against the Panthers to become the first team since Hutchinson in 2012 to defeat Derby in consecutive matchups. The Salthawks defeated the Panthers in five straight contests from 2009-12.
Junior quarterback Avery Johnson is the player to watch offensively for the Eagles and will be a serious challenge for the Panther defense that has seen the flexbone offense in back-to-back weeks.
The highly touted 6’3” dual-threat quarterback led the Eagles in his sophomore season, and to stop him, the Panthers will need to contain him throughout the game. On film, his stature and effectiveness on the ground and in the air draw some simplified comparisons to Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
“[Johnson] is really athletic and throws the ball really well,” head coach Brandon Clark said. “You can’t give him time, because he is a great scrambler too. He is shifty and big. We will have to make sure we contain him and don’t let him get outside the pocket.”
Derby has a not-so-secret weapon of its own in junior running back Dylan Edwards, who has received a lot of attention in his own right. The Maize defense learned a lesson last season as Edwards rushed for three touchdowns, but the question of if they can stop him remains unknown.
According to Clark, the defensive front is the backbone of the Eagle defense, and the multiple front defenses will take the majority of the week to prepare for.
“When you are preparing for one front, it is easier, and you can get good at it, but now we have to prepare for four or five different fronts,” Clark said. “We all need to be on the same page on who we are blocking, and that is going to take a full week of preparation.”
Despite the loss last season, getting revenge isn’t the top priority for the Panthers. Instead, the biggest emphasis is simply improving Derby football.
It will be the annual Derby Hall of Fame night, which will celebrate the class of 2020 (Tom Young, Joanna McFarland and Dave Sanders) and 2021 (Brady Ayer, Lisa Lunkenheimer (Smiley) and Rex Schott). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.