Pedators Fall 42-0

QUARTERBACK TO QUARTERBACK - Drew Arant (12) and Jonah McCary (15) celebrate after Arant threw a touchdown pass to McCary in the  win over Fox Creek.  Arant started at quarterback in place of McCary, who was moved to wide receiver. Earlier in the year, McCary threw a touchdown pass to Arant. (SHS photo by Dean Roesner)

Tigers Cruise
Past Predators

  “A Change is Gonna Come’ was the theme song of Saluda’s 42-0 Homecoming win over Fox Creek Fri., Oct. 21, at the Bettis Herlong Stadium at Matthews Field.
  After back-to-back disappointing losses to region foes Strom Thurmond and Silver Bluff, the Tiger coaching staff made wholesale line-up changes ... and it worked.
  The most major change was inserting sophomore Drew Arant into the starting quarterback position, and moving three-year starter Jonah McCary to wide receiver and defensive back.
  Next the Tigers started gamebreaker Tyleke Mathis at running back. In last week’s loss to Silver Bluff, Mathis only touched the ball four times for a total of 14 yards. His two touchdowns called back don’t count in the touches.
  Friday, Saluda received the opening kick-off and on the first offensive play of the game, Mathis scored on a 54-yard, flag free, touchdown run. Sam Espinoza kicked the PAT and Saluda led with just 12 seconds gone in the first quarter.
  On their next possession, Saluda moved to the Fox Creek 11, but Arant’s pass to Zion Wright was picked off at the Predator five. That proved to be a blessing in disguise, however, as on second down, the Fox Creek runner fumbled into the end zone, and Jaquavious Moore fulfilled a defensive lineman’s dream by recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. Espinoza made it 14-0 with 6:12 still to go in the opening period.
  Saluda forced a punt on Fox Creek’s next possession. On third down, Mathis broke his second, 54-yard, flag free touchdown run. With 2:59 to go in the quarter, Espinoza’s kick gave the Tigers a 21-0 lead.
  The Tigers began their next drive at their own 34 and got to the Predator 48 when the clock expired.
  On the first place of the second quarter, Arant connected with McCary over the middle for a 48-yard scoring pass. McCary joined his teammate Brayden Williams and a player who has thrown touchdown passes, and scored by rushing and receiving. Espinoza’s kick made the score 28-0 with 11:53 to go in the half.
  A 25-yard Fox Creek punt on their next possession, put the Tigers at their own 33. From their they mixed and the pass and run to move to the Predator 14, where Mathis scored on a run. Unfortunately, it became the 12th Saluda touchdown to be called back by a penalty this year, most of them by Mathis.
  Unlike the combined five call-backs against Strom Thurmond and Silver Bluff, this one didn’t hurt, as Mathis scored two plays after the penalty on a 12-yard run. Espinoza’s kick was good and Saluda led 35-0 5:15 left in the first half.
  To get a continously running clock in the second half, Saluda needed to lead 42-0 in the first half. That mission was accomplished when Arant and McCary hooked up for their second scoring pass of the game, this one coming from 13-yards out. Espinoza made the clinching kick for the 42-0 lead with 40.4 seconds to go in the half.
  Arant entered familiar territory in the second half. In Saluda’s runaway victories the last two seasons, Arant has played the entire second half. Friday, he played as the starter, but continued Coach Stewart Young’s policy of not running up the score in the second half.. Arant mostly handed off to back-up running backs.
  Arant did a good job in his first start passing for 111 yards and the two scores. McCary went from leading the passing to leading the receivers with two catches for 61 yards and two scores.
  Mathis’ led the rushing with 159 yards on only eight carries, and average of 19.8 yards a touch.
  The Tiger defense had an excellent performance. In the first half, the starters held Fox Creek to 19 yards in total offense.
  Along with the reawakening of the offense, the Tigers made a major improvement in penalties. Averaging nearly 100-yards in penalties the last five games, Saluda only had two penalties for 10-yards.
  The Tigers (7-2, 2-2) conclude their regular season Friday at arch-rival Batesburg-Leesville (4-5, 2-2). The winner of this game will finish in third place in the region and host a first round play-off game.
  Saluda has not defeated he Panthers since 2018, though Covid cancelled the games in 2020 and 2021.