B&L Falls 24-7

GAME BREAKERS -  Two keys to Saluda’s win over Batesburg-Leesville were Tyleke Mathis (2), who scored on a 68-yard punt return and a 68-yard run from scrimmage, and Jaylen Nick, who returned an interception 60-yards for a score. (SHS photos by Dean Roesner)

Tigers Down
Panthers 24-7

  After falling behind 7-0, Saluda outscored Batesburg-Leesville 24-0 the rest of the way to beat the arch-rival Fri., Oct. 28, at the Panther stadium.
  The win wrapped up third place in the region, and earned the Tigers a host spot in the first round of the state play-offs on Nov. 4.
  The first half featured a terrible performance by the Saluda offense, as it managed only three first downs and 57 yards in offense.
  In his second start, quarterback Drew Arant threw two interceptions before he ever connected with a teammate. The second pick set up B&L’s only score of the night.
  The drive covered 33-yards and ended with a nine yard touchdown pass and extra point, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 2:38 to go in the first quarter.
  The second quarter was mostly a punt-fest, as Saluda punted twice  and B&L three times. The third Panther punt proved to be the game changer.
  Just has he did when Saluda trailed Emerald 14-0, Tyleke Mathis sparked the Saluda comeback.
  B&L’s Cade Bouknight got off a 42-yard punt that Mathis fielded at the Saluda 32 and returned the ball 68 yards for the score. Sam Espinoza’s kick with 1:27 to go made the halftime score 7-7.
  The Tigers received the second half kick-off and began a nice drive at their own 23. Saluda got to the Panther 17, where Arant was sacked for a 14-yard loss on first down. Saluda got back to the 18 on two downs, and Espinoza came in to kick a successful 34-yard field goal. Saluda led 10-7 with 5:43 to go in the quarter.
  The Panthers earned two first downs on their drive after the kick-off,  but with the ball at their own 44, quarterback Tanner Watkins, under a heavy rush, put up a wobbly pass that was picked off by Saluda sophomore defensive back Jaylen Nick, and returned 60-yard for the touchdown. Only 25 second were left in the quarter. Espinoza made it 17-7.
  Saluda only had the ball for six plays in the fourth quarter,, but it took only one for Mathis to put the game away. After a Panther punt, the Tigers got the ball at their own 32, and on first down Mathis showed his magic by scoring on a spectacular 68-yard run. Espinoza put the icing on the cake, and Saluda led 24-7 with 7:54 to go.
  On the last possession of the game, Saluda got as close as the Panther nine-yard-line, but elected to have Arant take a knee for the final two plays of the game.
  Saluda’s offense played much better in the second half, ending up with 167 yards rushing, and 73 passing.
  Mathis led the rushing with 108 yards on only five carries, and receiving with three catches for 38 yards. After his slow start, Arant completed nine of his next 11 passes for 73 yards.
  A highlight of the game was the performance by the punters. Espinoza had one of the best, if not the best, punting game in Saluda High history, averaging 50.7 yards on three kicks. Bouknight averaged 40.2 on seven kicks.
  Saluda’s defense had another outstanding game, holding the Panthers to just 123 yards in total offense.
  The Tigers finished the regular season with an 8-2 record. Coach Stewart Young’s first team had a 2-8 record, and since that time the Tigers have gone 10-3, 12-2, 12-2, 8-5, 12-3, 4-3, 7-3 and 8-2.
  The Tigers will host Liberty in the opening round of the playoffs.
  The Red Devils are 4-6 and finished 4th in Region 1. The teams have one like opponent, Ninety Six. Liberty fell to the Wildcats 28-21, while the Tigers beat Ninety Six 39-15.
  Kick-off is at 7:30.