Coming into Friday’s game Ann Arbor Huron had dropped nine straight games in the SEC Red. Saline, on the other hand, had won 15 straight games in the SEC Red. So Saline’s 54-0 victory wasn’t a shock. Still, the Saline’s total dominance, especially in the first quarter was a sight to behold.
With the victory Saline improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the SEC Red. Huron fell to 0-5 and 0-3 in the SEC Red.
Andrew Diuble’s punt return touchdown gave Saline a 27-0 lead just 9:22 in the game. At that point Saline’s defense was impenetrable, sending Huron backwards eight yards in four series.
It was the start and the game coach Joe Palka wanted to see.
“Defensively the goal was to come out and start fast. That’s something we haven’t done in previous games, so I was happy with the way we started,” Palka said. “Overall it was a great team win. We have work to do. We have some work to do in the kicking game and defensively Huron held the ball for nearly a quarter on us so it gives us some things to improve on.”
Working with a short field, the Hornets offense was incredibly efficient. On their first three possessions it took the Hornets just eight plays to travel 152 yards and score three touchdowns.
The game began with Vinnie Patteri’s kick off into the end zone for a touchback. On 2nd-and-10, Konrad Dixon (3 tackles) dropped Marquise Johnson for a two-yard loss. Phillip Barnett’s tackle prevented Huron from gaining more than four yards and the River Rats punted.
Saline took over at the 50. On first down, Zach Schwartzenberger (5-for-6, 133 yards, 2 TDs) passed to Andrew Diuble (2 catches, 42 yards, 1 TD). On the next play, Connor Hibbard (4 Att, 117 yards, 2 TDs) rushed eight yards for a first down.
Schwartzenberger then found Diuble with a short pass. Diuble caught it, emerged from the pack and sprinted into the end zone for six. Patteri’s kick made it 7-0.
Huron’s next series went nowhere. A desperate five yard gain by QB Broderick Smith on third down was nullified by a personal foul call. Huron punted from its 15. Saline took over at its 48. On first down, Connor Hibbard ran the sweep. He kicked free of one tackle, motored around the outside and then sprinted down the sideline for the touchdown. Saline led 13-0.
The defense gave up just two yards on Huron’s next possession. On first down from the 50, Schwartzenberger passed to Bryce Wolma (2 Rec., 80 yards, 1 TD), who smashed his way to a 13-yard pickup.
On the next play Hibbard broke loose for a 36-yard gain before he was tripped up at the Huron one. Two plays later, Hibbard rushed in. Saline led 20-0 after Patteri’s kick.
Huron started its next series at its 20. On first down Daniel Wiedmayer stopped Smith for a two-yard gain. After an incomplete pass on second down the River Rats went backwards with a false start penalty on third. A play later, the River Rats were punting from their 17.
This time, Diuble fielded the punt. Once he raced around the corner nobody could catch him. He went 44 yards for the touchdown. Saline led 27-0 and there was still 2:38 to play in the first quarter.
Defensive end Sean O’Keefe said the defense responded to Palka’s challenge to “start fast.”
“I like the way we responded. I think we played really well. We played up to our potential,” O’Keefe said, admitting there were some things to clean up before next week’s game.
The River Rats put together a long, 79.5 yard possession that ended in heartbreak for a team that’s already been shutout twice. Huron started at its 20 with 2:38 to play in the first. They seemed poised to score when Smith tucked it in and gained two yards on a 4th-and-1 from the three. On first-and-goal from the one Smith gained about half a yard. On the next play, the snap went over Smith’s head.
He tried to chase it down but Nathan Powers scooped it up and fell on it at the Saline 22.
Two plays later, Schwartzenberger threw to Wolma who caught the pass and ran down the sidelines for a 67-yard touchdown. Saline led 33-0 with 2:38 to play in the half. The first half ended with Sean O’Keefe sacking Smith.
Any life left in the Huron team was vanquished.
Saline began the second half with the ball at the 33 and some of the reserves in the lineup.
On first down, Cole Daniels threw to Brendan Murphy, who bounced to the outside and blew up a tackler on his way to a 29-yard pick-up. Then Brendan Munday (8 rushes, 117 yards, 2 TD) broke loose for a big gain down to the Huron one.
On the next play, Cole Daniels faked the hand off and ran in for the score. It took Saline 55 seconds to score. They led 40-0.
Two plays later, Jake Stein blind-sided the quarterback and jarred the ball loose. It was recovered by Ethan Collick. The Hornets took over at the 21. On first down, Munday ran for a five yard gain.
On second down, he rushed up the middle untouched for a 16-yard touchdown. JT Turner made the kick. Saline led 47-0.
Saline’s defense forced another 3-and=out. Saline took over at the Huron 47. On first down Munday was dropped for a four-yard loss.
But he got them all back, and then some, on the next play, running 51-yards for a touchdown. Turner’s kick made it 54-0.
After two weeks of down-to-the-wire football, the lopsided score gave Palka the opportunity to play many of the other players.
“A lot of these guys are really good football players who happen to be playing behind great players, so it was good to see them get in the game and contribute,” Palka said.
Now the Hornets turn their attention to the hard-luck Pioneers, a preseason favorite who fell to 1-5 after Friday’s 16-13 loss to Monroe. Only Pioneer and Monroe (3-2 overall, 2-1 in the SEC Red) stand between Saline and the SEC Red.
“We’re becoming that blue collar team we wanted to be. We’ve got to bear down more than ever and work hard in practice because the next two weeks are going to determine the fate of our season,” Palka said. “We’re going to take it one practice at a time and one game at a time, but our kids know what’s at stake the next couple weeks.”
At 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the SEC Red, Saline is putting together another great season.
“I think it’s where we all want to be. It’s what we’ve been working for all summer. I don’t want to say that’s what we expected, but that’s what we worked for. We worked hard in the summer and I think we’ve earned it,” O’Keefe said. “We have a long way to go. We’re not even half-way through the season. So we’ll keep working and hopefully keep racking up Ws and keep getting better as a defense and offense.”
Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders 3 Stars
- Brendan Munday – Like nearly everyone who got a touch on offense, Munday made the most it. He rushed eight times for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
- Andrew Diuble – The Huron PA announcer made a mess out of his name and Diuble made the River Rats pay. He caught two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown and he slowed a great burst of speed on his 44-yard punt return for a TD. Bryce Wolma and Connor Hibbard also deserve mention for their games.
- Ethan Collick – The Hurons didn’t run many plays, so there aren’t many eye popping stats. The defensive line and linebackers had a great game. Collick had four tackles (two tackles for losses) and recovered a fumble.