FOOTBALL: Saline Dominates in Battle of the Undefeated

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 10/22/2016 - 04:12

Saline defeated Birmingham Groves, 38-3, in an awesome season finale. Both teams entered the game with an 8-0 record. Saline’s victory capped its second straight undefeated regular season. The Hornets have now won 25 straight regular season games.

“It’s a pretty significant accomplishment,” said Saline head coach Joe Palka, of the Hornets’ undefeated season. “We’ll celebrate tonight and tomorrow, but Sunday, we start preparing for the playoffs.”

Team staff and players will gather at Pizza House in Ann Arbor for “Selection Sunday,” when the Hornets learn who they’ll face. By virtue of their 9-0 record, the Hornets are guaranteed to host their first playoff game.

Saline’s made a habit of routing good opponents in big games, but Friday’s dominance left witnesses impressed.  Saline faced a team that hadn’t given up more than one touchdown in a game in more than a month, and the Hornets scored five touchdowns before the reserves entered the game early in the third quarter.

Saline QB Zach Schwartzenberger completed 17 of 18 passes for 191 yards against a team that hadn’t given up more than 12 points all season. Connor Hibbard rushed the ball 14 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns (and had a touchdown reception, too), against a team that prides itself on defense.

On the other side of the ball, the Hornets out hit and out ran a team that loves to hit and run. Saline piled up 488 yards to Groves’ 144.

Asked to describe how the Hornets were able to dominate in a game of 8-0 teams, Palka said it’s the team’s dedication to the process.

“I know (the Groves) staff. We know they have great players. It’s a testament to our kids not getting too high and not getting too low. They just come out and they want to work. They can’t wait to get out here and work. We did it tonight and did it for 48 minutes,” Palka said.

The went to work immediately, scoring on a 90-yard drive that featured Schwartzenberger’s pin-point accuracy and Hibbard’s elusive and physical running. Passes to Bryce Wolma, Andrew Diuble and Emmett Turner and a couple of runs by Schwartzenberger moved Saline out to midfield. After converting a 3rd-and-1 with a pass to Wolma, Hibbard took over, running three times for 11 yards to the Groves 33.  Then Schwartzenberger pass to Nate Gresser for a short gain. Officials tacked on 16 more yards for face-masking, giving Saline a first down at the 14. On the next play, Hibbard shot through the defense for a touchdown. JT Turner’s kick was good and Saline led 7-0 3:49 into the game.

Tom Raupp set the tone for the defense when he delivered a hard hit on Nate Higley on Groves’ first play from scrimmage, causing a loss of yards. Groves picked up five yards on second town but a third down pass fell incomplete and Groves punted from the 25. The punt was dropped and the Falcons appeared to recover but officials ruled that a whistle went while the ball was in the air. To the dismay of Falcon fans, officials ordered the Falcons to punt again. Saline took over its 34. Schwartzenberger passed to Diuble twice to move Saline out to the 48. Hibbard ran for an 11-yard pick-up and then followed it up with a 41-yard scamper along the sideline for his second touchdown of the game. Saline led 14-0 7:10 into the game after Turner’s kick.

Groves’ mounted an attack with their second rive. Nate Higley’s 23-yard return gave the Falcons the ball at their 29. On 3rd-and-7, Beau Kewley passed to  Drew Sheckell for an eight-yard pickup. On 2nd-and-11, Kewley and Shekell connected again for a 25-yard gain to the Saline 36. The Falcons converted another 3rd-and-long with a 15-yard pass to Higley. The Falcons were in the red zone. On first down, Ethan Collick chased down Collin Heard and pulled him down for a one-yard loss. The second quarter began with Robbie Felton sacking Kewley for a yard. On third down, Sean O’Keefe batted down a pass.

The Falcons attempted a field goal. Sean O’Keefe leaped into the air and blocked it with his helmet.

The Hornets next drive seemed to stall at the Groves’ 44. On 4th-and-3, the Hornets faked the punt and handed off to Hibbard who ran all the way down to the Groves’ four-yard line.

The play was called back for holding. After a false-start penalty, Vinnie Patteri punted. Groves started at its 19.

On first down, Nathan Powers chased down Nathan Wagner and dropped him for a three-yard loss. Three plays later the Falcons punted. It was a back-breaking defensive stop.

“Our defense keeps getting better and better and we’re really starting to play physical. It was great to see even more improvement tonight,” Palka said. “The biggest thing is we stopped the run. We knew they would hit a couple play action plays, but we knew if we stopped the run against a ball possession power team that we would have a good chance to win.”

Saline followed that up with a three-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Saline took over at its 37. On first down, Schwartzenberger lofted a pass along the Saline sideline. Bryce Wolma outran his man and then extended and made a beautiful diving catch for a 33-yard reception.

Hibbard followed with a five yard run. On 2nd-and-5 from the 25, Schwartzenberger threw a short pass out to Hibbard, who started down the Saline sideline and then beat a groves tackler with a vicious juke to the middle. He ran in for the score. Saline led 21-0 after Turner’s kick.

It was the fourth straight week Hibbard has scored at least three touchdowns. He now has 19 rushing touchdowns and three touchdown receptions.

“Hibbard is peaking at the right time. He has great vision. He’s compact, physical and has great speed. He gets to the second level, he’s gone. He also breaks a lot of tackles,” Palka said. “We like to say that he makes us right. Even if it wasn’t the best play, he can make something happen and make it look like the right play.”

The Falkcons’ next drive got out to the Saline 48 when Nathan Powers sacked Kewley for a six-yard loss on 3rd-and-8. The Falcons punted and Saline took over at its 15 with 2:17 to play. Schwartzenberger passed to Turner and Hibbard to get out to the 33. After a five-yard rush by Hibbard, Schwartzenberger throw to Turner for a first down at the Saline 46. After running for 12 yards and another first, Schwartzenberger passed to Turner for a 16-yard pickup, but it was called back for holding. On 1st-and-10 from the Saline 43, Schwartzenberger passed to Cole Daniels who threw to Nate Gresser all alone along the Groves’ sideline. Gresser made the catch and ran into the end zone. Saline led 28-0 with 41 seconds left in the half.

 

The half ended with O’Keefe sacking Kewley for an eight-yard loss.

Groves started the second half with the ball. On 3rd-and-3, Kewley’s pitch out missed this running back and bounced out of bounds for an eight-yard loss. The Falcons punted.

Saline took over at its 45. Saline picked up nine yards on a run by Hibbard and 19 yards on Schwartzenberger’s pass to Diuble. Schwartzenberger passed to Emmett Turner for a first down at the Groves 11. After a three-yard run by Hibbard, Schwartzenberger took the snap, tucked it in and ran eight yard for the touchdown. Saline led 35-0. 

The game, for all intents and purposes, was over.

Vinnie Patteri kicked a field goal with 17 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 38-0. Groves added a field goal late in the fourth quarter.

mancinos football.jpg

Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders 3 Stars

  1. Connor Hibbard – Put the ball in his hands and watch the magic happen. He was elusive as a junior. As a senior, he’s got the strength to initiate contact and break tackles. He’s scored 13 touchdowns in four games.
  2. Robbie Felton – Led the team with 5 tackles, including a couple of hard hits. Kept the passing game contained with his speed. Nathan Powers, Tom Raupp, Sean O’Keefe, CJ Gildersleeve and Ethan Collick also had big games on defense.
  3. Zach Schwartzenberger – In his last three games, Schwartzenberger has completed 39 of 43 passes for 512 yards and four touchdowns. He’s also rushed for two touchdowns. When people talk about the efficiency of the Hornet offense, look no further than their senior quarterback.

 

Saline Passing

 

Cmp

Att

Yds

CMP%

TD

Int

7Zach Schwartzenberger

17

18

191

94.44

1

0

13Cole Daniels

2

2

67

100.00

1

0

Saline Rushing

 

Att

Yds

Avg

TD

20Connor Hibbard

14

147

10.5

2

7Zach Schwartzenberger

4

39

9.8

1

25Brendan Munday

5

37

7.4

0

6Andrew Diuble

1

7

7.0

0

Saline Receiving

 

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

4Nate Gresser

2

61

30.5

1

5Bryce Wolma

4

61

15.3

0

3Emmett Turner

5

60

12.0

0

6Andrew Diuble

4

34

8.5

0

20Connor Hibbard

3

32

10.7

1

11Jake Zambeck

1

10

10.0

0

Saline Defensive

 

Tkl

Solo

Ast

Sac

TFL

Int

12Robbie Felton

5.0

5

0

1.0

1.0

0

41CJ Gildersleeve

4.5

3

3

0.0

0.0

0

2Ethan Collick

4.5

3

3

0.0

2.0

0

34Nathan Powers

3.5

3

1

1.0

2.5

0

40Tom Raupp

3.5

2

3

0.0

0.5

0

28Jeremiah Leyden

3.0

2

2

0.0

0.5

0

94

2.0

2

0

0.0

1.0

0

30Dylan Powers

2.0

1

2

0.0

0.0

0

1Brandon Boyd

2.0

2

0

0.0

0.0

0

9Ethan Walsh

2.0

1

2

0.0

0.0

0

23Sean O’Keefe

1.5

1

1

1.0

1.5

0

14Tyler Plocki

1.0

0

2

0.0

0.0

0

56Trevor Garbo

1.0

1

0

0.0

0.0

0

26Mathew Roche

1.0

1

0

0.0

0.0

0

31Bradley Feldkamp

1.0

1

0

0.0

0.0

0

67Justice Moss

1.0

1

0

1.0

1.0

0

77Josh Lupascu

0.5

0

1

0.0

0.0

0

Saline Kicking

 

FG

FGA

XP

Pts

46JT Turner

0

0

5

5

18Vinnie Patteri

1

1

0

3

Team Stat Comparison

 

Gro

SAL

Number of Plays

45

44

Total Offense

144

488

Time of Possession

00:26:46

00:19:43

Rushing Attempts - Yards

27 - 67

24 - 230

Passing: Completions - Attempts

8 - 18

19 - 20

Passing Yards

77

258

Passing: Touchdowns - Interceptions

0 - 0

2 - 0

Fumbles - Lost

2 - 0

1 - 0

Turnovers

0

0

First Downs

11

21

First Downs - Rushing

6

9

First Downs - Passing

4

11

First Downs - Penalties

1

1

Third Down Conversions/Attempts

3/11 (27.3%)

2/5 (40.0%)

Fourth Down Conversions/Attempts

1/1 (100.0%)

0/2 (0.0%)

Penalties - Yards

3 - 45

8 - 50

Defensive Sacks - Yards

0 - 0

4 - 18

Punts - Average

5 - 38.2

1 - 30.0

 

 

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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