MAYNARD — The Ayer football team posted a 34-22 road win over Maynard on Friday night against a Tigers team that never gave up. The Panthers appeared to have put the game away with a strong first half burst, but Maynard continued to fight back.
Ayer ran the ball well in the contest, getting strong efforts from both Sylvester Marshall and Lindsey Mullan behind outstanding work from the offensive line. Marshall finished with 211 yards rushing on 25 carries and scored a touchdown, while Mullan had 15 rushes for 117 yards and a touchdown. Austin Luckey also contributed to the victory by scoring a pair of touchdowns, while quarterback Tony Banchs chipped in with a rushing touchdown.
The Tigers achieved most of their success through the air, with quarterback Kyle Howes going 11-for-25 for 233 yards and throwing all three of Maynard’s touchdowns.
Ayer wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard after receiving the opening kickoff. It only took two plays for the Panthers to find the end zone as Marshall took a handoff on the right side, broke one tackle and rambled 44 yards for the touchdown. After a successful conversion pass from Marshall to Banchs, the Panthers led 8-0 with less than a minute off the clock.
After the quick touchdown, neither team was able to score for the next 20 minutes as the defenses took over the game. It was the Panthers who added to the lead when Luckey punched it into the end zone from three yards out after taking a pitch. Another successful conversion pass from Banchs to Marshall boosted the lead to 16-0.
Maynard took to the airways to try to slice into the lead, but Ayer’s Jonathan Hird made an interception and returned it to the Tigers’ 10-yard line. The Panthers capitalized on the great field position two plays later when Luckey took a pitch to the right and scored. The conversion attempt failed, but Ayer was in command at 22-0.
On the verge of being blown off its own field, Maynard responded just 33 seconds later when Michael Marshall took a short pass from Howes and ran it 51 yards into the end zone. A successful conversion pass from Howes to Sean Peterson drew the Tigers to within 22-8.
Maynard tried an on-sides kick and recovered, but on the next play Howes’ pass was intercepted and the teams went to intermission with Ayer on top 22-8.
Both offenses struggled throughout the third quarter as the defenses rose up and forced three-and-outs, but the offenses came alive in the final quarter.
Maynard struck first with Howes throwing a 10-yard touchdown pass to Loughlin to make it 22-14 with 8:30 left in the game.
Ayer answered with a 12-play scoring drive, capped by a one-yard quarterback sneak by Banchs to make it 28-14.
Not to be outdone, Howes threw another pass to Marshall, this time it went for 74 yards, closing the gap to 28-22 after a successful conversion run from J.J. MacCormack.
With two and a half minutes left in the game, Ayer got the ball back with a chance to put the game out of reach. They did just that, with a nice run from Mullan for 45 yards and a touchdown, extending the lead to 12 after the conversion pass was no good.
That score proved to be an important insurance touchdown. Maynard never quit and tried to mount one more drive but the Ayer defense turned them back.
Although given a scare late, Ayer stayed strong and pulled out a win on the road, improving its record 3-6.
“We need to play better defensively,” said Ayer coach Jamie Lamoreaux. “We had chances to put the game away and we didn’t, but overall it was a good win.”