In Upper State Game

BIG HIT - Saluda linebacker Slayter Waters (4)  stops a Liberty running back dead in his tracks during the Tigers’ 35-5 win. Also pictured are Demond Johnson (26), Ashton Parkman (32), Kelijiha Brown (71), and Titus Bosket (28).Malcolm Wiggins beside Waters. (Photo by Trey Fingerlin)

Upper State Bound!!!

  For the second year in a row the Saluda Tigers will play in the Upper State Championship game at Abbeville.
  The Tigers earned the right with a 35-5 win over Liberty Fri., Dec. 2, and the last of their unheard of ten homes game this year at the Bettis Herlong Stadium at Matthews Field.
  Abbeville defeated Cheraw 42-14 at the Braves home field. Last year the Panthers and the Tigers were in the same region and Abbeville won both meetings and went on to win the state title.
  Friday, kicking game miscues led to Liberty taking an early lead in the game.
  The Red Devils stunned the Tigers by executing a successful onside kick to start the game. Liberty was unable to earn a first down and punted, but Saluda’s Tyrell Abney mishandled the ball and the Red Devils recovered at the Tiger 12-yard-line. That’s a close as Liberty would get to the goal line and on fourth down, Austin Kemp came on to kick a 28-yard field goal, giving the Red Devils a 3-0 lead.
As the Tigers have done many times in their 12 game winning streak, they quickly responded to a deficit.
On the third play after the kick-off, Saluda’s Malik Brooks broke 45-yards to the Liberty 14. He’d score three plays later from the one. Dylan Strickland continued his PAT state record kicking streak, and the Tigers led 7-3 with 5:04 to go in the first quarter.
  A sack by the Tiger defense of Liberty quarterback Nick Reeves led to a Red Devil punt to the Saluda 50.
  Quarterback Noah Bell lost three yards on first down, but on second down Tyrell Abney got the ball on the jet sweep and sped down the sidelines for a 53-yard touchdown run. Strickland’s kick upped the lead to 14-3. That completed the first quarter scoring.
  Midway in the second quarter, a Liberty punt put the Tigers at their own 19. On first down, Brooks found a seam,  and broke into the clear for an 81-yard scoring run. With 5:12 to go in the half, Strickland’s kick gave the Tigers a 21-3 lead.
  As time was running out, Saluda used the brother-to-brother combination of Noah Bell and Ty Bell to take a 28-3 halftime lead.
  Noah hit Ty for a ten-yard-pass on second down after a Liberty punt.  Later on third down, freshman Noah connected with the wide open senior Ty, and he weaved his way through the defense for a 47-yard scoring play. Strickland’s kick came with 1:01 to go in the half.
  The third quarter was scoreless, as the Tigers managed only one first down against the tough Liberty defense.
  On the first play of the fourth quarter, Bell threw 16-yards to Raquam Hartley to the Saluda 38. After Brooks got one-yard on first down, Bell and Hartley combined again. With great concentration, Hartley hauled in a deflected pass and turned it into a 61-yard scoring play. Strickland’s state record for  successive PATs increased to 74 and the Tigers led 35-3 with 10:59 to go in the game.
  Both teams then turned the game over to their substitutes.
  As time was running out, Saluda’s O’Syruis Springs intercepted a Liberty pass at the Saluda two-yard-line.
  On first down, Saluda Coach Stewart Young took a page from Dabo Sweeney’s book and put his seniors back into the game. He then called time-out to allow his seniors to take a final bow before the appreciative home crowd.
  On first down after the time-out, Saluda’s Ny’Kel Rolland was tackled in the end zone with 57.3 seconds to go in the game, making the final scored 35-5.
  The game featured some outstanding performances by both defenses.
  Brooks led the Tigers with 136-yards rushing, but 126 of those yards came on two carries. The other 13 carries he mustered just ten yards.
  Saluda’s defense had one of its best games  of the year. Liberty managed just 51-yards in total offense. The quarterbacks completed only three of 21 passes, and the rushing attack garnered only 35 yards.
  Abney gained 75-yards on five carries for the Tigers, and Bell had one of his best passing games of the year, completing six of ten for 153-yards.
  With the victory, the 2016 Tigers tied the 1941 and 1962 state championship teams with the most wins in school football history - 12, and upped their record breaking points scored total to 547.
  The Tigers will play in back-to-back state semi-final games for the first time since 1962 and 1963.
  Friday Saluda will play at Tommie Hite Field, named for the legendary Abbeville coach, who was also the coach of that 1941 Saluda state title team. Hite was inducted into the Saluda District Hall of Fame earlier this year.
  Abbeville is 12-0-1, with the only blemish being a 7-7 tie at Lincolnton, Ga. The state of Georgia does not require playoffs in non-conference games.
  Kick-off is at 7:30.


The buses will roll out of Ivory Key at 5:15 on Friday. The plan is to have the send off as they head out Greenwood Hwy. Plan to park in the Dollar General parking lot like last year. Bring your signs, cowbells, and wear your warm purple apparel. Come out and show your support for the Tigers!