MONROE -- Saline defeated Monroe 42-14 Friday to clinch a playoff berth and earn at least a tie for the SEC Red Championships. The Hornets, on a five-game winning streak, improved to 4-0 in the SEC Red and 5-1 overall.
QB Cole Daniels completed 13 of 15 passes for a season-high 256 yards and one touchdown. Emmett Turner caught six passes for 119 yards – his one touchdown reception was waived off due to a holding penalty. Andrew Diuble caught four passes for 91 yards. MJ Griffin caught one pass – a 30-yard touchdown reception on the first play of the second quarter.
Brendan Munday ran the ball 16 times for 91 yards and four touchdowns. Hayden Scott opened scoring with a touchdown run in the first quarter.
For tonight, the Hornets were happy to clinch at least a share of the SEC championship.
“We don’t want to be co-champs. We want to win it outright,” Palka said, pointing to next week’s homecoming game against Pioneer (3-3 overall, 3-1 in the SEC).
Like the typical Palka football team, Saline didn’t need much time to score. Monroe had the ball for 36 minutes to Saline’s 11 – but Saline put up 399 yards to Monroe’s 265. The Hornets were helped by good field possession most of the night, while Vinnie Patteri’s kickoffs for touchbacks kept Monroe starting at its 20.
Saline’s defense forced a turnover on the first possession of the game. Kingsley Amadi pried the ball loose from Anthony Harris and recovered the fumble at Monroe’s 35. On Saline’s first play from scrimmage Andrew Diuble ran the sweep and went 27 yards to the Monroe eight. Brendan Munday smashed his way down to the one before Hayden Scott punched it in from the one. Saline led 7-0 less than four minutes into the game after Patteri’s kick.
Saline spent the week practicing for Monroe’s spread offense and the defense was caught off guard when the Trojans came out playing the straight T. Monroe’s next possession started at its 20. Rushing the football, the Trojans pushed to the 47 for a first down. That’s where Saline drew the line.On first down Tom Raupp stopped Jalen Johnson for no gain. Then CJ Gildersleeve stopped Harris for a one-yard loss. Monroe punted.
Saline started at its 46. After Daniels passed to Diuble for a 14-yard pickup, there was a strange sequence where officials called penalties on four straight plays. First the Hornets were penalized for a fall start. Then Monroe was whistled for offsides. Again the Hornets were tagged for false start. And again, Monroe was assessed for offsides.
When actual play started again, Daniels passed to Turner for six yards and Murphy for 11 yards. Then Munday ran 10 yards for a first down at the Monroe 30. On the first play of the second quarter, Cole Daniels passed to MJ Griffin at the one-yard line. He caught the pass and continued into the end zone. It was 14-0 after Patteri’s kick.
Saline’s defense went to work to get the offense the ball. Daniel Brad Wisniewski stopped Jared Banks behind scrimmage and forced the fumbled and scooped it up.
Saline had the ball at the Monroe 37. On first down, Munday picked up four yards. On the next play, he went 14 yards to the 19 but Monroe punched the ball loose and recovered.
The Trojans responded with a 74-yard, nearly 10-minute scoring drive that included three fourth-down conclusions – including one on a penalty. QB Spencer Knapp also had a powerful 4th-and-five run for 24 yards to the Saline 8. Banks scored from two-yards out. Saline led 14-7.
Vinnie Patteri returned the kickoff to the Hornet 34 with 24 seconds left in the half. Daniels passed to Turner for 13 yards and then 10 yards for a first down at the Monroe 43. Then Daniels, scrambling around, found Turner alone in the end zone and lofted a pass to him. Turner made the catch but it was called off due to a holding penalty.
Saline led 14-7 at halftime.
Palka said the score was partially a result of Saline’s mistakes and good work by Monroe.
““Number one, we didn’t have the ball. It was our fault for turning it over. And then if we go in and score there, it’s 21-0. Instead we gave them life. To their credit they came out with a completely different offense. They were a spread team and they came out in a straight T. We hadn’t prepared for that. And they tried to grind the clock,” Palka said. “I was really pleased by the way we stayed patient and adjusted and played well in the second the second half.”
On offense, the Hornets came out breathing fire.
Saline started at the Monroe 49. Daniels passed to Diuble for a 37 yard gain – with Diuble doing most of the work after the catch. On the next play, Munday rumbled 12 yards for a touchdown. Saline led 21-7 just 23 seconds into the quarter.
Ethan Collick and Gildersleeve stopped the Trojans on their first two downs. But Gildersleeve limped off the field with an injury on third down. Banks took the handoff and went 80 yards up the middle for a touchdown.
Asked about that play and the importance of Gildersleeve, Palka pulled no punches.
“No question, whether it’s physical or emotional or mental. He gets our kids lined up. He has the athletic ability to correct mistakes on the field,” Palka said.
Monroe’s fans were pumped after the touchdown, but the celebrations were shortlived.
Saline’s next drive began at its 45. Daniels passed to Diuble for 15 yards. Munday rushed for a first down. Saline picked up another first on a Daniels keeper. And then Munday ran in for another seven yards. Saline led 28-14 after Patteri’s kick.
Monroe’s next drive made it just over midfield when the Hornet defensive line stepped up. Brad Wisniewski dropped Knapp for a seven yard loss after a bad hand off. Wisniewski then helped Kingsley Amadi drop Knapp for another loss. On 3rd-and-18, Weidmayer stopped Banks for short game. The fourth quarter began with Monroe punting.
Wherever there was a big play on defense it seemed Wisniewski was in the vicinity.
“Wiz can run and he’s big. He just keeps coming. I’m really happy with our defensive end play with him and Danny. Wiz is a guy who’s really explosive. He’s going to make a lot of negative yardage plays,” Palka said.
Saline took over at its 21. On first down, Daniels passed to Turner along the Saline sideline. The play went for 76 yards before Turner was finally knocked out of bounds.
Two plays later, Munday dove in from three yards. Patteri’s kick made it 35-14.
“We hit play action passes that were big for us. We were running the ball well the entire game. We kept answering. I don’t think they felt they had the ability to keep up with that,” Palka said. “Our defense followed suit and played really dynamically.
Saline’s defense forced a three-and-out. Saline’s offense went back to work at its 40. Daniels passed to Jack Loveland. Runs by Munday and Daniels gave Saline a first down. Daniels passed Turner for six yards and then Diuble for 24 yards, with Diuble gaining big yards after the catch.
Saline had a first down at the Monroe 10. On first down, Munday scored his fourth touchdown of the game. JT Turner’s kick made it 42-14.
Once again, a big passing play from Daniels to Turner or Diuble set up a Munday touchdown. Though Turner and Diuble were kept out of the end zone, their important work was not overlooked.
“They really did set up our offense. Our play action game really paved the way. So we got big chunks of yardage with the play action. When we got closer, the running game got it done for us,” Palka said.
Munday scored four more touchdowns – giving him 12 on the year.
“He keeps getting better and better. He’s become a power back. He’s got size. He ran through some guys,” Palka said.
Now Saline turns its attention towards Pioneer.
“They’re athletic. They have a very good quarterback and a real good receiver. They rely on those guys to make a lot of plays. That’s been the key to their success,” Palka said. “We have to find a way to stop them and continue to put points on the board offensively.”
The Mancino’s Pizza 3 Stars are:
- Brendan Munday – Hard to ignore the guy who scored four of the team’s six touchdowns.
- Brad Wisniewski – It’s a sign of how good the defensive line is that someone new stands out every week.
- Emmett Turner – A lot of guys deserve mention in the 3 Stars. Gildersleeve, Daniels, Patteri, Diuble. But Turner had his best game yet. This team needs that Daniels-to-Turner chemistry to fire up. It’s starting to happen and it looks like it should peak sometime around the playoffs. Turner made a couple great sideline grabs and picked up major yardage after the catches.