Tigers Beat AJ

TOUCHDOWN RUN - Saluda junior quarterback Jonah McCary breaks loose on one of his two touchdown runs in the Tigers’ 38-14 win over Andrew Jackson Friday. Also,pictured are Dustin Berry (50), Zy Gray (52) and Quron Abney (72). (SHS photo by Dean Roesner)

Tigers Beat Vols, 38-14

  Behind quarterback Jonah McCary’s two rushing and two passing touchdowns, Saluda defeated Andrew Jackson 38-14 in the first round of the 2A playoffs, Fri., Nov. 5, at the Bettis Herlong Stadium at Matthews Field.
  The win sets up an all too familiar trip to Abbeville to meet the top-ranked, unbeaten, defending state champion Panthers in the second round.
  Friday’s game could not have gotten off to a better start for the Tigers. AJ kicked off and Saluda’s Tyleke Mathis fielded the ball at the seven and returned it 93 yards for the touchdown. Mathis stayed on to run the two-point play and the Tigers led 8-0 with only 15 seconds gone in the game.
  The Volunteers were forced to punt on their first possession. The Tigers were able to tip the kick, and it only travelled 18 yards to the AJ 39. On the third play of the drive,
McCary connected with Javarious Stevens for a 37-yard scoring pass. The try for two failed and Saluda led 14-0 with 7:24 still to go in the first quarter.
  Andrew Jackson put together a scoring threat after the Saluda kick-off, but it died on fourth down at the Saluda 27.
  In the second quarter, a Saluda drive stalled the Volunteer eight yard line, and after a five-yard penalty against the Tigers, Sam Espinoza kicked a 32-yard field goal, giving Saluda a 17-0 lead with 3:55 to go in the half.
  A 30-yard punt from the AJ 15-yard-line set up the Tigers’ final score of the half. McCary scored on a 32-yard run. Espinoza made the halftime score 24-0 with the  PAT kick.
  With a different offensive formation, featuring two running backs, the Volunteers took the second half kick-off and moved down the field. The Tiger coaches called time out and adjusted the defense, and Andrew Jackson’s threat died on fourth down at the Saluda 32.
  From there the Tigers moved down the field to score. A 33-yard pass from McCary to Mathis set up McCary’s 22-yard touchdown run. Espinoza’s kick made the score 31-0 with 6:23 to go in the third quarter.
  The Volunteers fumbled on their possession after the kick-off and Saluda recovered at the AJ 33-yard-line. On third down at the 33, McCary threw a short pass to Mathis, and the junior speedster turned it into a 33-yard touchdown reception. Espinoza completed Saluda’s scoring at 38-0 with 4:38 to go in the third period.
  As has been the case in Saluda’s other high scoring wins, the Tigers took their foot over the gas pedal, allowing Andrew Jackson to pile up yardage and score two touchdowns against the reserves to make the final score 38-14.
  McCary had his best overall game of the year. The junior, who had only rushed for 44-yards in the first eight games, gained 56 yards on seven carries to go with his two scores. He passed for 185 yards, and two scores.
  Senior Montrevious Bakers gained 97 yards on 12 carries. Mathis led a the receiving with four catches on 74 yards and a score.
  Friday’s match-up with Abbeville will mark the fifth time the two teams have met in the playoffs at Hite Field since 2015. The first four meetings were for the Upper State championship. In 2015, the Panthers won going away, 36-14, but in 2016 and 2017, the Panthers escaped with 21-16 and 20-15 wins, respectively.
  In 2019, the Tigers were down 28-17 in the fourth quarter, but rallied to win 32-28, ending Abbeville’s four state championship streak.. The next week, Saluda beat Barnwell for the state title.
  Abbeville has not lost since the Saluda win in 2019.
  Kick-off is at 7:30.