“Get Better Every Week” has been the mantra of the Saline High School varsity football team each week.
Eight weeks into the season, the Hornets looked scary-good as they picked apart the Skyline Eagles 53-13 to clinch a share of the SEC Red Championship.
Saline (7-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC) finished tied with Pioneer atop the SEC Red. Monroe, fell to Bedford, 27-13) to finish 4-2 in the SEC.
From the opening kickoff, the Hornets looked determined to steamroll the Eagles. Gage Hammond (5 catches, 131 yards, 1 TD0 returned the kickoff to the Skyline 49. On first down, he caught a short pass from Tyler Palka (17-for-24, 258 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) and ran it to the Skyline 12. After a nine-yard rush by Kevin Gross, Griffin Wooley punched it in from three yards out. Hammond’s kick made it 7-0.
Saline’s next drive ended with an interception at the Skyline two. Three plays later, Skyline QB Askaree Crawford and Percell Franklin connected for a 98-yard touchdown pass along the left sideline.
Another great kickoff return by Hammond, this time to the Skyline 26, gave the Hornets great possession to strike again. A 20-yard keeper by Palka gave Saline a first down at the Skyline 7. Two plays later, Palka ran it in from the five. Hammond’s kick made it 14-7.
The Hornets dominated the remainder of the game. Skyline’s next possession was stopped in three plays as Alex Kendig and Casey Schukow sacked Crawford on 3rd-and-2. Saline took over at its own 46. Nine play and 2:06 later, Gross rushed in for a touchdown. Hammond’s kick made it 21-7.
Skyline’s next drive was disastrous. On third-and-long Nick Sekerak (six tackles, 2 sacks, one tackle for a loss) dropped Crawford for a big loss. On fourth down, the snap went over the punter’s head and Nader El-Awar recovered at the Skyline 18. Two plays later Gross rushed in from one yard out. Palka rushed in to convert the two-point play. Saline led 29-7.
It took Saline only a minute to score again. Travis Brown recovered a Skyline fumble and the Hornets took over at the Skyline 37. Palka and Gross connected for a 32-yard passing play. On the next play, Palka connected with Gross again for a touchdown. Saline led 36-7.
Skyline closed the gap with its best drive of the game, moving 76 yards in 11 plays. On the 11th play, Crawford rushed in from five yards out. Saline took a 36-13 lead into halftime.
The bad news for Skyline was that Saline is a second half team. Skyline’s first series of the half ended after three plays when Brandon Gordon picked off a pass at the Skyline 37. Saline settled for a field goal to make it 39-13. Skyline’s next drive went two plays before Grant Ellis picked off a pass. Two plays later, Palka found Caleb Luckett over the middle for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Saline led 46-13.
Saline’s final score was set up after another strong defensive stand during which Caleb Ashby (5 tackles, one forced fumble, one sack) had one tackle for a loss and a sack. Palka and Hammond linked for a 29-yard touchdown pass and Saline led 52-13.