Mauldin High was eliminated from the Class AAAA Division 1 football playoffs Friday in Sumter when the Mavericks were defeated 41-27 by the Sumter High Gamecocks.
First-year Mauldin coach Lee Taylor said the turning point in the game came with three minutes left in the first half and the Mavericks ahead by two touchdowns.
“We were leading 14-0 and we had to punt,” Taylor said. “They returned it for a touchdown. That was the turning point in the game. They came back and tied it. If we had gone to halftime leading 14-0 or 14-7, it would have been a different ballgame.”
Sumter returned the second half opening kick for a touchdown and a 21-14 lead.
“Our kids fought hard all night,” Taylor said. “We just had some mental breakdowns on special teams. If we don’t have those breakdowns, we are right there in the game and could possibly win the game.”
The Mavericks (7-5) trailed by eight points, 35-27, with a minute remaining in the game. Mauldin moved the ball to Sumter’s 29 but fumbled, and Sumter recovered the ball and ran for a 66-yard touchdown.
Mauldin senior quarterback Dre Massey completed 34 of 59 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns. Massey also rushed for 122 yards and one touchdown.
Taylor praised the Sumter defense.
“They had the best defense I have seen this year,” he said. “We have played Byrnes, Dorman, Gaffney, Boiling Springs and Hillcrest but their defensive line was the best defensive line we have seen all season. They dominated us up front.”
“Special teams are a third of the game. You have offense, defense and special teams,” he added. “Our special teams made some mental mistakes that hurt us.”
Sumter on Friday will play at Hillcrest, a 41-14 winner against Rock Hill last week. Taylor said it will be a close defensive battle that he thinks the Rams will win.