MAIZE — Maize's Dalyn Johnson was back, the Salina South Cougars were back on their heels and the result was predictable.
Maize jumped on South early and never let the Cougars off the mat Friday night, rolling to a 21-0 Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division I victory at K.T. Woodman Stadium.
"We were just flat in the first half," said South coach Sam Sellers, whose Cougars were coming off an dominating victory last week over Campus. "The first two drives offensively were flat and then defensively a couple of times we got ourselves out of position.
"They're too good a team to play like that. I was proud of the way our kids fought in the second half."
Maize scored on its first two possessions and stopped South on a goal-line interception to lead 14-0 at halftime, then tacked on a 54-yard touchdown run by Johnson with 1:34 left in the game to seal the victory. Johnson, who had played sparingly in the first three games because of a shoulder injury, rushed for 134 yards and all three Eagle touchdowns on 25 carries.
"I'm coming off a sprained shoulder and just getting back," said Johnson, who ran for over 1,500 yards last year. "I just basically wanted to come out and show what I can do."
South got off to a promising start when Cai Calvert returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to the Maize 39, but went nowhere on their its first series and had to punt.
The Eagles then marched 80 yards in eight plays by mixing Johnson's power running and a controlled passing game. Caleb Grill completed passes of 17 and 38 yards to Brayden Payne and Johnson carried five times for 20 yards on the drive, going the final 3 for the touchdown.
"Last year we struggled with the passing game but Caleb Grill has done a fine job and so have the receivers," Johnson said. "Now we're getting our rushing game going."
A short punt into the wind put Maize in business on its second possession at the South 46-yard line, with Johnson carrying the final 17 yards to make it 14-0 with 1:21 left in the opening quarter.
South cranked up its offense in the second quarter by running straight at Maize. But on a third-and-9 at the Eagle 12, Casey Lanoue rolled right and threw for Ty Garrett in the front corner of the end zone, only to have it picked by Jalen Johnson at the 1.
It was the Cougars' best scoring opportunity of the night.
South's defense got a big stop on downs in the third quarter to stay in the game, but could not generate enough offense to make it close.
"We could be an awfully good football team," said Sellers, whose Cougars fell to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the AVCTL. "We're just trying to gain that confidence.
"We started off with that big kick return, but then things didn't go our way on the first offensive possession and first defensive possession and we started doubting ourselves.
"We've got to get past that."
The Cougars were outgained just 256 yards to 228 by Maize, but could not put any drives together. They had 129 rushing yards, led by Tanner Parret with 101 on 16 carries, while Lanoue completed 10 of 20 passes for 97 of South's 99 yards through the air.
Ty Garrett had seven catches for 76 yards.
Maize (3-1, 1-1) had 121 yards on the ground and 135 passing, with Grill completing 11 of 19, eight of them to Payne for 103 yards.
Things do not look to get easier for South, which plays host to Class 5A No. 1-ranked Goddard next week at Salina Stadium.