Abbeville Wins Again

ON THE MOVE- Saluda’s Jay Baker picks up good yardage on this play in the  Tigers’ 20-15 loss to Abbeville Friday. Other Tigers pictures are Kalijiha Brown (71), Caleb McDaniel (11) and Hunter Herlong (62). (SHS photo by Dean Roesner)

Third Time Not The Charm

  For three straight years, the Saluda Tigers travelled to Abbeville to play in the Upper State Championship game, and, sadly, the results were the same.
  Two-time defending state champion Abbeville will be playing for its third straight title Friday, and the Tigers, if they so chose, will once again be watching from the stands.
  Friday’s meeting at Hite Field saw the Panthers control the game for the almost the entire second half, then saw the Tigers stage a near miraculous comeback.
  It was an obvious from the beginning the Tigers were not intimidated by the Panthers.
  On their first possession of the game, the Tigers drove 57-yards to the Abbeville three, where Francisco Yepez kicked a 22-yard field goal, giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead with 6:44 to in the first quarter.
  Abbeville began an 80-yard scoring march on the last play of the quarter. On  the tenth play of the driver, Jermaine Blackwell scored on a three yard run. The pass for two failed, and Abbeville led 6-3 with 7:54 to go in the half.
  Late in the quarter, the Tigers mounted an impressive drive and had first and goal at the Panther nine. Abbeville blitzed on successive downs and Tiger quarterback Noah Bell was thrown for 16-yards on losses.  Bell’s completed pass on third down was good for only two yards.
  Yepez came on and missed a 40-yard field goal attempt with 56.5 seconds to go in the half.
  The Panthers dominated the third quarter, scoring twice and holding Saluda to just one first down.
  On their first possession of the second half, Abbeville drove 65-yards on 10 plays. The touchdown came on a six-yard run by Junior Rapley. The run for two failed and Abbeville led 12-3 with 5:59 to go in the period.
  Their next possession resulted in a 83-yard scoring march in three plays, the touchdown coming on a 69-yard run by Blackwell. Rapley ran the two-point play and Abbeville led 20-3 with 2:47 still left in the quarter.
  As time was running out in the game, the Tigers got back on the scoreboard. Bell completed six passes on the 69-yard march and scored the touchdown on a two-yard run. Yepez missed the kick and the score stood at 20-9 with only 1:16 to go in the game.
  Yepez’ onside kick was unsuccessful, but the Tigers were able to use their timeouts effectively, and a 18-yard Abbeville punt gave Saluda the ball at the Panther 37. Within seconds, Bells scored on a nine-yard. The try for two failed, and Saluda trailed 20-15 with 24.5 seconds to go in the game.
  This Yepez onside kick was successful and the Tigers recovered at the Abbeville 49.
  Bell passed 18 yards to Raquon Hartley on first down, moving the ball to the 31. Only 11 seconds remained when the Tigers tried the old “Hook and Ladder” play, and time expired when the ball carrier was tackled inbounds.
  The Tigers finished the year with a 12-2, becoming only the fifth Saluda team to win 12 or more games, joining  the  1941, 1956, 1962 and 2016 Tigers. The 14-games played ties the most in school history with 1956 and 2016.
  The Tiger team and players were hurt statistically by the fact C.A. Johnson forfeited the ninth game of the years. Even without out this game, the 2017 Tigers scored the third highest points total in school history, 387, trailing 2016 - 563, and 2015 - 429.
  The only individual record setter was sophomore quarterback Bell, who set marks for most passing yards in a season - 2117, most total offense - 2674, most touchdown responsibility - 36 (17 rushing, 19 passing). Had Saluda played C.A. Johnson, Bell might have broken Ryan Nichols most touchdown passes record - 20, falling one TD short.
  Bell has two most years to set more records.
  The Tigers will return six of the seven leading rushers, seven of the eight leading receivers, and nine of the ten leading scorers. In fact, of the 387 points scored by the Tigers this year, 363 were scored by underclassmen.
  The Tigers will miss a good group of seniors, led by Shrine Bowl defensive tackle Kalijiha Brown, who has signed with Wake Forest, and North-South All-Star linebacker Demond Johnson. Other seniors include defensive back Daquain Brunson, defensive linemen Ashton Parkman (also the punter) and Sam Padgett; offensive lineman Jacob Riley, Michael Cockrell, Hunter Herlong, Miciah Wallace; and receivers Caleb McDaniel, Jacob Starnes and David Dobbs.
  The Tigers will be moving to a new conference next year, which will include Batesburg-Leesville, Ninety Six, Silver Bluff, Fox Creek, and “you know who,” Abbeville.