Middle Creek’s Black Knight wears a long-sleeved black shirt under his all-black jersey. He completes the look with black pants and a black helmet. If he were bigger than his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, he’d be menacing.
Instead, junior defensive end George Maya III’s aura is mysterious. The III suffix adds to his Bruce Wayne stateliness.
Maya plays a game that surprises opponents on the field with his relentless effort, using his quickness to overcome a size disadvantage.
He can stand up to a heavier opponent and shed him in pursuit of the ball.
But upon retreating to the sideline following a change of possession, he’s the polar opposite. He’s unassuming. Every time, Maya takes the same seat on the left inside of the benches aligned in a V-formation. He quietly positions himself and then seemingly slips into a trance, unaffected by all that is swirling around him.
“I’m thinking about what the guy in front of me is doing and what I have to do to overcome it on the next series,” Maya said. “I try to not get too high or too low.”
On Friday night, Maya was in on the first turnover that lifted Middle Creek to a 7-0 lead in the Mustangs’ 42-7 victory over Fuquay-Varina in the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA playoffs. The Bengals ran a sweep opposite Maya, but he pursued. He recovered the loose ball with his long black-sleeved arms pulling it to him at Fuquay’s 24-yard line.
Typical of a Black Knight, he thought nothing of the good deed and felt he could have done more.
“I should have picked it up and ran with it,” he said.
No matter. Six plays later, quarterback Dominique Shoffner scored on a 9-yard run.
With the win, top-seeded Middle Creek (14-0) advanced to the 4AA East final against No. 6 Page High (12-2) out of Greensboro. The game is Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Mustang Stadium, the second time in three years the school has hosted the state semifinal.
“George Maya is really fast and explosive off the ball,” said Shoffner, who faces him in practice. “That’s what gets him in the backfield. Sometimes in practice he knows when I’m going to pull, and he’ll hit me in the backfield.”
Maya lacks his teammates’ demonstrative emotions, but no one is having more fun playing at Middle Creek than him.
During his middle school years, his family moved from Fairfax, Va., to the area. Since then, he’s been tight with the Middle Creek friends he first met at West Lake Middle School.
“Moving here is the best thing that happened to me,” Maya said. “I grew up in the city, and I’m not a city boy. I love playing football here. I’ve been with these guys since West Lake. We’re a family.”
Maya also credits the continuity of working with Middle Creek defensive coordinator Kendal Ray, despite a head coaching change. Ray had coached the varsity, sophomore and freshmen defensive linemen the past two years before new head coach Randy Ragland promoted him to DC. Ray, a teacher and coach at the school for 14 years, knew what he had in Maya for 2015.
“He’s basically a linebacker with his hand on the ground,” Ray said. “He runs well, and he takes coaching well. We’ll pinch him or loop him so he’s not always taking on a 285-pound guy. I tell our guys not everybody’s 100 percent is the same, but I want your 100 percent. George always gives us his 100 percent.”
Ah, that’s not so mysterious, after all.
NCHSAA football playoff pairings
All times are 7:30 p.m.
1-Middle Creek vs 6-Page
1-East Forsyth vs 6-Mallard Creek
2-New Hanover vs 5. J.H. Rose
1-Dudley vs 3-Charlotte Catholic
3-Southern Durham vs 13-Northern Guilford
1-Concord vs 2-Crest
1-Eastern Alamance vs 3-Rocky Mount
2-South Point vs 8-Kings Mountain
2-Bunn vs 4-Clinton
1-Monroe vs 2-East Lincoln
1-Kinston vs 2-SouthWest Edgecombe
1-Shelby vs 6-Lincolnton
1-Wallace-Rose Hill vs 3-James Kenan
4-Mitchell County vs 10-Walkertown
1-Plymouth vs 2-Southside
1-Community School of Davidson vs 2-Robbinsville