B&L Slaps Tigers

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TOUCHDOWN RECOVERY - Saluda’s Alkamas Johnson got to live a defensive lineman’s dream when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown in Saluda’s 52-28 loss to Batesburg-Leesville Saturday. (Photo by Trey Fingerlin)

Panthers Crush Tigers, 52-28

 The Saluda-Batesburg-Leesville series began in 1920 with Panthers blasting the Tigers 50-0.
 One hundred years later history repeated itself, as the Panthers blasted the Tigers 52-28 Sat., Oct. 24, at the Bettis Herlong Stadium at Mathews Field.
  The game was moved to Saturday, because the Panthers had missed two straight game due to covid issues, and were required to get three days  of practice for the game by the High School League.
  B&L did not play like a team that had been off for two weeks. The Tigers, crippled by injuries to key offensive players, had one of their worst games in recent memory, turning the ball over an unbelievable eight times.
  A successful fake punt on the game’s opening drive propelled the Panthers to their first score of the game. The 11-play, 63-yard drive ended with a five yard scoring run by Armah-Dre Leaphart. The kick failed and B&L led 6-0 with 7:51 to go in the opening quarter.
  Third team quarterback Austin Summer and third team tailback Naim Butler started for the Tigers,  because quarterback Jonah McCary and tailback Montrevious Butler were injured in last week’s Columbia game. Baker is also the back-up quarterback.
  Saluda could do nothing on the first possession and on fourth down the ball was snapped over punter Sam Espinoza’s head. Espinoza tried to corral the ball, but B&L’s Matthew Boozer scooped up the ball and ran it in for the score. Jackson Lorick kicked the point after and the Panther’s led 13-0 with 6:20 to go.
  The “comedy of errors” had only begun. Lorick’s pooch kick-off was watched by several Tigers before players from both teams went for the ball, and B&L came up with it at the Saluda 36.
  On second down Marvin Gantt broke free for a 36-yard scoring run. Lorick’s kick made it 20-0 with 5:59 remaining.
 On first down after the kick-off, Saluda’s Butler fumbled and B&L recovered at the Saluda 17. The touchdown came on fourth down on a 17-yard pass from quarterback Jenavas Williams to Lorick. The try for two failed. In the time from 7:51 to 4:43 on the clock, the Panthers scored 26 points.
  Saluda finally got something going on its next possession from the 47 to the three where the Tigers faced fourth down. Montrevious Baker, who was cleared to play Sat. morning, got the call, but the Panthers stopped him short of the goal.
  The field position helped the Tigers to their first score of the game. Standing in the end zone on fourth down, B&L punter Cade Bouknight kicked the ball into his up man, and Saluda’s Alkamas Johnson recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. The kick failed making the score 26-6 with 11:07 to go in the first half.
  Saluda’s fourth fumble of the half didn’t result in B&L points, but the fifth one did. Recovering at the Saluda 39, the Panthers took three plays to score, the touchdown coming on a 14 yard run by Gantt. Lorick’s kick made the score 33-6 with 4:15 to go in the half.
  Saluda, with nothing to lose, gambled on fourth down on their next possession at Panther 40, but McCary, who had entered the game in the quarter, was tackled for a 12-yard loss.
  Taking over at the Saluda 48, all the Panthers had to do was hand off to Gantt and he did the rest, rambling 48 yards for the score. Lorick made it 40-6 with time running out.
  Give the Tigers credit, they didn’t quit. With just a few second left in the half, and the ball at the Saluda 45 after the kick-off, McCary hit Zion Wright, who tightroped down the sideline for a 55-yard scoring play. McCary passed to Tyleke Mathis for the two point play and the Tigers cut the lead the 40-14 with 26 second left.
  The Tigers won the second half, 14-12, but still had three more turnovers.
  Getting the second half kick-off, the Tigers drove 67-yards in 18 plays to cut the lead to 40-21. The touchdown came on a two yard run by Mathis. Espinoza kicked the PAT.
  The Tigers held the Panthers on their next possession, but on the first play after the punt, M.  Baker fumbled after a short pass from McCary, and  B&L recovered at the Saluda 23. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Gantt scored on a ten-yard run. The PAT failed and B&L lead 46-21.
  Saluda’s next drive ended in a interception, but B&L fumbled it back on the next play.
Later in the quarter, Summer came back in and led the Tigers to a score. The big play was a 44-yard pass from Summer to Javarious Stevens. Later, Summers scored the touchdown on a three-yard run. Espinoza kicked the point after and the Tigers cut the lead to 46-28 with 2:58 to go.
  The bleeding was not over, however. The Panthers fumbled on their next possession, but the Tigers gave it back on first down with Summer’s pass was intercepted by Gantt. Who else?
  On first down, Gantt’s replacement, Leaphart, imitated Gantt by running 55 yards for the final score of the game, putting the Panthers over the half century mark. The conversion attempt failed, making the final score 52-28.
  The stats were close, but the big difference, other than Saluda’s turnovers, was B&L rushing attack that piled up 289 yards.
   McCary and Summer combined to pass for 153 yards, and the rushing attack finished with 109 yards.
  Friday’s game against Newberry will be a big one. The winner will remain in the play-off hunt, and the loser will be eliminated.
  This game was originally scheduled for second game of the year, but was postponed due to covid issues at Newberry. The Bulldogs, like B&L, were off for two weeks,  and returned Friday to lose to Region champion Gray Collegiate, 34-28.
  Kick-off is at 7:30 p..m.