Tigers Advance to Third Round

TOUCHDOWN - Saluda’s Jeremiah Stevens scores the Tigers’ second touchdown, as quarteback Noah Bell gives the signal, in Saluda’s 38-14 win over Buford Friday.. (Photo by Trey Fingerlin)


Tigers Romp To 3rd Round

  The Saluda Tigers advanced to the third round of the 2A state-playoffs for the fourth straight year with a 38-14 win over Buford at Lancaster Fri., Nov. 16.
  With the win the Tigers earned a rematch with Southside Christian, who won the first meeting 30-17 at the Bettis Herlong Stadium at Matthews Field on Sept. 21.
  Friday’s game pitted the 7-4 Tigers, third seed in Region 2, against the 8-3 Yellow Jackets, champions of Region 1 and winners of eight straight. It was also the first time the two teams had ever met, and the first time the Tigers had ever played on artificial turf. Saluda practiced one day last week at Newberry College’s Setzler Field, which has a similar surface.
  The first quarter made everyone in attendance believe this was going to be a “last team to score wins” type game.
  In the opening period, the  two teams combined for 31 points, 350 yards in offense and 15 first downs!
  Saluda received the opening kick-off and behind the running of tailback Jeremiah Stevens and quarterback Noah Bell, moved 77 yards and two feet where they faced an third and goal at the one-foot line. The Tigers, who killed themselves several times with penalties, were flagged for illegal procedure, and two plays later settled for a 22-yard field goal by Francisco Yepez with 9:04 to go in the quarter.
  A 15-yard-penalty against the Tigers on the kick-off allowed the Yellow Jackets to start at their own 47, and they drove in the take the lead in only four plays. The touchdown came on a three yard run by quarterback Brayden Phillips. Jesse Black’s kick made the score 7-6 with 7:45 to go, which left plenty of time for 21 more points.
  Black’s kick made it to the end zone. Stevens gained 11-yards on first down, Bell lost two yards on the next play, then is was “Welcome back, Dallan Wright.”
  Wright had been suspended for four games by the High School League after the fight in the Silver Bluff game. His first catch since the suspension was a 71-yard touchdown pass from Bell. Yepez gave Saluda a temporary 10-7 lead with 6:37 to go in the first.
  Yepez kick-off sailed into the end zone, and Yellow Jackets began an 80-yard, leading taking drive. The touchdown came on a 10-yard run by 5-6, 148-lb. running back Tyhiem Miller, who had 70-yards rushing on the first quarter on four carries. Black’s kick gave Buford a 14-10 lead at the 2:50 mark, but as the old saying goes, for Buford “that’s was all she wrote.”
  After O’Syruis Springs returned  the kick-off to the 25, Bell connected with last week’s receiving hero Keenan Brooks on a 30-yard gain to the Buford 45, but when Brooks gave the first down sign, he was penalized 15-yard for taunting. The walk-off put the ball back to the Saluda 40.
  Two runs by Stevenson was followed by a 23-yard pass form Bell to Brooks to the Buford 22. With assistance from one of the few penalties against the Yellow Jackets, the Tigers moved to the two, where Stevenson ran it in with 28 seconds to go in the quarter. Yepez kick made the score 17-14.
  The second quarter displayed something no one had seen the first quarter, punts.
  With less than three minutes to go in the first half, Saluda linebacker Bubba Robinson got a big interception, putting the ball at the Saluda 38. On first down Bell threw a short pass to Madison Williams and the speedy sophomore turned the play into a 62-yard touchdown, his 11th scoring reception of the year. Yepez gave Saluda a 24-14 lead with just 2:25 to go in the first half.
 The Tigers, who had saved their timeouts, forced Buford to go four and out after the kick-off and the Tigers got the ball at their own 48 after the 32-yard punt.
  Bell hit three sideline passes, then found an open CJ Bosket for a 35-yard gain to the Buford four-yard-line. With no time outs left, Bell scored the touchdown from the two with 22 seconds to go. Yepez made the halftime score 31-14, but as every Gamecock fan can tell you, 31-14 means nothing.
  The Tiger defense came through big-time in the third quarter, stopping three Buford fourth down tries. The biggest came when the Tigers stuffed the Yellow Jacket ball carrier on fourth and goal at the Saluda one.
  The Tigers also had a failed fourth down try on fourth and one at the Buford 21.
  Saluda stopped Buford’s fourth, fourth down gamble on the first drive of the fourth quarter. Taking over at the Tiger 36, Saluda got a 32-yard run by Bell on first down, Two plays later, Bell threw to Wright for a 35-yard touchdown. Yepez completed the scoring at 38-14 with 8:48 to go in the game.
   Bell led the Tigers offense, which totaled 513 yards, by passing for 322-yards on only 12 completions. He also added 62-yards rushing. Stevenson rushed for 100-yards on 21 carries and Wright totaled 150-yards on just three catches.
  The Tigers have travelled 90 and 100 miles in the first two play-off games and will be on the road again in the third.
  Southside Christian is located in Simpsonville.
  Kick-off will be at 7:30.