Barnwell Falls

GREAT GAME - Saluda quarterback Noah Bell #8, a candidate for Mr. Footbal in S.C., accounted for six touchdowns, one rushing and five passing, in Saluda’s championship win over Barnwell Friday. (Photo by Trey Fingerlin)

TREMENDOUS CROWD - It is estimated the 2A championship game drew 10,000 spectators. This is photo of a portion of the Saluda side. (Photo by Trey Fingerlin)


 It took 56 years, but Saluda High School has another football state championship trophy to add to the case.
  The underdog Saluda Tigers dominated previously unbeaten Barnwell 39-14, before a nearly packed house in the 11,000-seat  Benedict College Charlie Johnson Stadium in Columbia. Fri., Dec. 6.
  The Tigers took control early, after receiving the opening kick-off. On first down, quarterback Noah Bell threw 43-yards to Jervon Whitt to the Barnwell 34. Two more Bell completions got the ball inside the ten-yard-line, and on third and goal at the one, Bell ran it in. Adrian Vasquez kicked the PAT, and Saluda led 7-0 with 9:12 to go in the first quarter.
  Barnwell, who entered the contest averaging 50 points a game and only giving up ten, was three plays an out after the kick-off.
  Starting at the Tiger 35, Bell’s pass to Whitt lost three yards on first down, but on the next play, he lofted a perfect pass to the wide open Dallan Wright who sped to the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown. Vasquez’ kick made the score 14-0, with 7:05 left in the opener.
  Again, the Tigers forced a Barnwell punt after three plays. Getting the ball at the 44, the Tigers used the arm of Bell , who completed seven straight passes. The touchdown came on a ten-yard-pass from Bell to Wright. Vasquez had a rare kick misfire, and Saluda led 20-0, with 3:08 still remaining in the first.
  In the second quarter, a Barnwell punt put the Tigers at their own 13. The Tigers moved to the Barnwell 41, where Bell was hit just as he was throwing the ball and the pop-up was intercepted by the Warhorses and returned to the Saluda 46.
  Barnwell stayed on the ground on the seven play drive. The touchdown came on a four-yard run by TJ Miller. Clay Pender’s kick cut Saluda’s lead to 20-7 with 5:38 to go in the half.
  Saluda did not allow the Warhorse score to spark a momentum change. Starting at the 27 after the kick-off, the Tigers mixed the run and pass to go the distance in 12 plays. The touchdown came on a nine-yard pass from Bell to Wright. Again, Vasquez missed the kick and Saluda led 26-7, with just 50 seconds to go.
  That was enough time to put a scare in the Tigers. A 35 -yard pass from Craig Pender to Jakavein Williams put the ball at the Saluda 35. Next, the Warhorse used the hook and lateral to move to the Tiger ten with just seconds to go. Saluda’s defense came through big time on the last play of the half, sacking Pender for a six-yard-loss.
 Barnwell received the opening kick-off of the second half, and promptly marched 68-yards on 11 plays. The touchdown came on an 11-yard run by quarterback Pender. Kicker Clay Pender cut the lead to 26-14 with 7:35 to go in the third quarter.
  Again, the Tigers refused to allow a momentum shift. After the kick-off, a five-yard-penalty put the ball on the Saluda 20. On the first play, Bell found another one of Saluda’s speedsters, Zaye Bryant, and he covered the 80-yards for the score. Vasquez made the kick and Saluda led 33-14 with 6:24 to go in the quarter.
  The Warhorses threatened on their next possession, but drive died at the Saluda 16 after a fourth down incompletion.
  From there, the Tigers mixed a 30-yard pass from Bell to Wright and the running of Bell to move to the Barnwell 27. At that point, the Bell to Wright combo worked for the fourth time on the night. This time Wright made spectacular, highlight reel catch. The Tigers try for two failed, and Saluda led 39-14 with 10:48 to go in the game.
  Saluda stopped the next Barnwell threat, and starting from the Tigers 17, the offense marched to the Barnwell 15, where Bell took a knee and the large Saluda crowd counted down to the state championship celebration.
  The Tigers piled up 538 yards in offense, while defense limited Barnwell, a team that had scored over 700 points this season, to just 249 yards.
  The Tigers march to the title was remarkable. After losing their last two regular season games to Abbeville to Batesburg-Leesville, the Tigers opened the play-offs with a 42-7 win over third seed Blacksburg,
  After the opening win, the Tigers would have to beat four straight region champions to take home the trophy.
  The last three Southside Christian, Abbeville and Barnwell had a combined record of 38-1 before they met and lost to the Tigers.
  With the state championship season comes many records.
  The team set the mark for most games in a season, 15, and broke the most points in the season, scoring 591, breaking the 2016’s mark of 563.
  Then senior class won a record 44 games in their 4-year career.
  Two seniors, Bell and Wright, set offensive records that may never be duplicated.
  Bell, who owned all the passing records coming into the season, shattered his own marks. He set the record for most passing yards, 4028; most completions and attempts, 267-409; most touchdown passes, 49; most total offense, 4578; most touchdown responsibility, 65.
  Bell, who started as a 14-year-old freshman, finished his career with 9876 yards passing and 111 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1736 yards and 42 scores. In his four-year career, Bell had 11,612 in total offense, and accounted for 153 touchdowns, one of the top marks in state history.
  Wright shattered every receiving record. The most receiving yards in a season mark was 846. Wright finished with 1515. The most receptions in a season was 64. Wright finished with 85. The most touchdown pass receptions was  11. Wright finished with 25.
  Wright and his fellow receiver Whitt, set the records for two receivers, with combined receving yardage, 2404, and touchdowns, 42.
  It’s been 56 years since the Tigers won a football state championship, and the 2019 Tigers will be a team that will be remembered for decades.