Ninety Six Falls

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BIG GAINER - Saluda tight end Caleb McDaniel gains good yardage on a pass from Noah Bell, background, in Friday’s win over Ninety Six. (Photo by Trey Fingerlin)

DEFENSE- Saluda linebakers Raquon Hartley (6) and Bubba Robinson (3) bring down the Ninety Six running back in Friday’s win over the Wildcatgs Also pictured are Sam Padgett (72) and Ashton Parkman (34).  (SHS photo by Dean Roesner)

Tigers Stomp Wildcats, 42-23

  In a game that belonged to the quarterback position, Saluda claimed an entertaining 42-23 victory over old rival  Ninety Six Fri., Sept. 22, at the Bettis Herlong Stadium at Matthews Field.
  Tiger sophomore quarterback Noah Bell passed for a school record 337 yards, and sophomore Jay Baker, lined up in the quarterback Wildcat position, scored three touchdowns on only three carries. Impressive Ninety Six quarterback Kentavius Williams rushed for 229 yards.
  If you like defense, this was not your game. The two teams combined for 861 yards in offense.
  The Wildcats stunned the Saluda faithful by taking the opening kick-off and, behind the running of Williams,  marched down the field. At the Tiger 14, Saluda’s CJ Bosket saved the day by intercepting Williams’ pass near the goal line and returning it to the Saluda 11.
  Bell’s first down pass was incomplete, but on second down he went for the home run and hit Baker for a 89-yard scoring strike. Francisco Yepez kicked the extra point and the Tigers led 7-0 with 7:22 to go in the first quarter.
  Yepez kick-off made the end zone for a touchback. With the ball at the 20, Ninety Six was penalized back to the 13 on first down. Fans who had already been treated to an 89-yard play, got to see an 82-yarder when Williams broke loose to the Saluda five-yard-line.
  A penalty against the Wildcats on first down and the Tiger defense led to Ninety Six’ Morgan Rogers kicking a 24-yard field goal, cutting Saluda’s lead to 7-3 with 5:00 to go in the opening period.
  Saluda began a 64-yard scoring drive as time was running out in the quarter.
  On the first play of the second quarter, Bell hit O’Syruis Springs for 19-yards, and followed that with a 22-yarder to Baker to the Wildcat one-yard-line. Baker stayed on and scored from the Wildcat on the next play. Yepez made with 14-3 with 11:12 to until halftime.
  On the next possessions, the Wildcats moved to their 44 before having to punt.  The 46-yard kick pinned the Tigers are their own 10-yard-line. That did not deter the Saluda passing game.
  After the first down pass fell incomplete, Bell hit tight end Caleb McDaniel for 12 yards on second down. A dead-ball penalty put the ball back at the 12, but on the next play, Bell hit Springs for a 49-yard gain to the Ninety Six 39. This was followed by a scoring throw to Raquon Hartley. Yepez’ kick with 7:05 to go completed the first half scoring at 21-3.
  For the second week in a row the opponent tried an onside kick against the Tigers to start the second half. For the second week in a row the attempt failed, and for the second week in a row the Tigers turned the attempt into a scoring drive.
  After Keenan Brooks recovered the kick, Saluda got the ball at midfield. Again Bell took the air, hitting Springs for 13-yards, and Baker for two passes totaling 21 yards. At the Wildcat 12, Bell called his own number and scampered into the end zone. Yepez’ was again successful on the kick and the Tigers led 28-3 with 9:04 to in the third quarter.
  There was no relaxing when the Wildcat offense had the ball. With ball at the 15 after the Yepez kick-off, Williams rushed twice for 12-yards, then turned it over to running back Rytavis Brown who ran 15, 57 and one-yard on successive plays. The last was for a touchdown. Morgan made the kick and the Tiger lead was cut to 28-10 with 6:49 to go in the third.
  An interception of a Williams’ pass by Hartley set up Saluda’s next score. Hartley returned the ball to the Wildcat 13. Kentavius Burton gained eight yards on first down, then Baker returned to run the Wildcat and scored from the  five. Yepez’ kick was good and the Tigers led 35-10 with 3:40 still to go in the period.
  The Wildcats came right back, beginning a 65-yard scoring drive in the third quarter and finishing with 11:23 to go in the game on a 13-yard run by back Braden Bolton. Morgan’s kick cut Saluda’s lead to 35-17.
  The Tigers responded with a 60-yard scoring drive after the kick-off. Bell’s 20-yard pass to Springs, was sandwiched between passes of 19 and three yards to Baker. With the ball at the ten,  “Wildcat” Baker scored his fourth touchdown of the night. Yepez completed Saluda’s scoring for the night with 7:31 to go in the game.
  The Wildcats kept pecking away and got on the scoreboard again with 20.4 second to go in the game, when back-up quarterback Chad Fairey threw 30-yards to Ian Leverett for the score. Morgan missed the kick and the final score stood at 42-23.
  The victory was Saluda’s second in a row over Ninety Six. Like last week’s third straight win over Batesburg-Leesville, you have to go back to the Bettis Herlong coaching era to find the last time Saluda beat the Wildcats two in a row, 1976 and 1977.
  The 2015 and 2016 Tigers set many school offensive records, and the 2017 edition is continuing the trend.
  Bell’s 337-yards passing eclipsed Ryan Nichols’ record  301-yards passing against McCormick in 2006. Baker’s 172-yards receiving tied Markel Mobley’s record yardage for one game. This also came in that McCormick game in 2006.
  Friday marked the first time in school history two receivers had over 100-yards in one game. Baker had 172-yards on seven catches, and Springs had 101 on four catches.
  Like last year, the Tigers finished the pre-region season with a 4-1 record. The first league opponent comes to town next week in the person of Eau Claire. The Shamrocks are 0-5.