After a huge defensive stop deep in Hornet territory, Saline went on to score 24 second-half points and beat Bedford, 31-7, in a game that could have huge implications for the SEC Red championship.
Cole Daniels completed 13 of 21 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns and rushed 10 times for 57 yards and one touchdown. Brendan Murphy caught four passes for 106 and a touchdown and Andrew Diuble caught six passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. Hayden Scott also ran seven times for 37 yards and a touchdown. Vinnie Patteri accounted for the rest of the Saline scoring with a field goal in the fourth quarter.
Saline scored on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead. On the Hornets’ final possession of the half, a penalty wiped out a great touchdown reception by Emmett Turner. Then the Hornets missed a field goal attempt with three seconds remaining. Bedford scored on its first possession of second half and seemed to have all the momentum going its way when the Mules blocked a Hornet punt and took possession at the Saline 31. The Saline defense gave up one first down but then then drew the line at their own 17. The Mules turned the ball over on downs.
“I couldn’t prouder of our defense. They faced a lot of questions early in the year. They were on the field a lot. When the chips were down they came through. And then our offense came up with a big play right after that,” Saline coach Joe Palka said.
Three plays later, thanks in large part to an 80-yard passing play to Brendan Murphy, the Hornets were in the end zone.
“We looked dead in the water. These kids did a great job responding. That, to me, is one of the more special things I’ve seen in my six years here,” Palka said.
Saline piled up 435 yard of offense to Bedford’s 186.
After MJ Griffin returned the opening kickoff 29 yards to the Saline 39, the Hornet offense executed efficiently. Daniels passed to Emmett Turner for six yards. MJ Griffin, used offensively for the first time, ran for a seven-yard gain. Brendan Munday, who rushed 11 times for 53 yards in the first half before leaving the game, moved the chains with an eight yard gain. Munday later had a 16 yard gain to move down to the Bedford 16.
Palka kept putting the ball in Munday’s hands. He had rushes of two yards and three yards to set up 3rd-and-5. Munday rushed for another four yards, setting up 4th-and-1. Then Munday ran again and picked up one yard for a first down at the Bedford six. On the next play, Cole Daniels found Murphy fading toward the sideline. Murphy caught the pass and ran into the end zone.
“Me and Emmett just crossed. I waited for the backers to take Emmett and I started going. I opened up and Cole gave me a good ball and I just walked in to the end zone,” Murphy said.
It was a great start for a Saline offense that has faced questions since being shut out opening week. Unfortunately for the Hornets, the offense struggled to score more points in the first two quarters. The problem was mitigated by the play of the defense, which continues to impress.
The defense gave up one first down on Bedford’s first possession. But after making a first down at Bedford’s 47, CJ Gildersleeve sent the Mules backward with a tackle for a loss on first down. A few plays later, after stops by Trevor Tye and Griffin, the Mules punted.
Saline’s next drive started at its 10. Diuble rushed 24 yards on first down. Daniels rushed twice for 12 yards for another first. After another eight-yard gain by Daniels and an incomplete pass, Munday fumbled the ball and Bedford recovered at its 46.
The Hornet defense answered the bell again. On 3rd-and-3, Trevor Garbo and GJ Gildersleeve brought down Shane Yoder two yards short of the marker. The Mules went for it on 4th-and-2 and Christian Brown ran for five yards. The Mules gained another first down before the Hornet defense clamped down. On 3rd-and-4, Kingsley Amadi sacked Austin Malabanan for a one-yard loss. A fourth down pass attempt failed. The threat was over.
Saline’s next drive made it over midfield when Daniels passed to Vinnie Patteri for a 14-yard pickup. But the drive stalled there. Patteri punted and it was downed at the Bedford 10.
Saline’s defense gave up nothing on the next Bedford series. Daniel Weidmayer, Tom Raupp and Alex Morisson had tackles as Saline forced a punt after three downs. Saline took over at its 44 with 3:42 to play in the half. Daniels passed to Diuble for seven yards and then ran four yards for a first. Then Monday ran for a 15-yard gain. Daniels passed to Diuble and Murphy for another first at the Bedford 18. Daniels followed with a 10-yard keeper to the Bedford eight.
On first down, Daniels passed to Emmett Turner in the corner of the end zone. Turner made a great catch but Saline was whistled for illegal procedure. Turner nearly made a diving catch in the end zone two plays later. Another end zone try for Diuble fell incomplete. On fourth down, Patteri’s 31-yard field goal attempt was just wide.
Saline went into the dressing room up 7-0.
Bedford’s offense looked strong to start the second half. Bobby Slusher initiated things with a 15-yard rush on first down. Tom Raupp sent the Mules backward by forcing a fumble, recovered by the Mules for a seven-yard loss. But Malabanan and Maison Hullibager connected for a 26-yard passing play on the next play. Bedford moved into the red zone when Hullibarger gained 19 yards on 3rd-and-3. A few plays later, Brock Andrew made a great catch in the end zone on a pass from Malabanan. Andrew was well-covered and leaped to make the catch. He appeared to bat the ball up and then catch it as he fell.
The game was tied at seven.
Saline’s next drive started at its 40 following a 25-yard kickoff return by Alex Morrison. Diuble gained 15-yards on first down. The drive stalled and Saline lined up to punt at the Bedford 48. Instead, the punt was blocked and recovered at the Saline 31.
The Hornets needed a stop. Slusher converted ran for about two yards and one inch on 4th-and-2 to move the chains. The Mules went to the air and had no success. A first down attempt failed. On second town, Garbo dropped Malabanan for a four-yard gain. A third down pass attempt was incomplete. On 4-th-and-6, the Mules went for it and failed to complete the pass.
“I couldn’t prouder of our defense. They faced a lot of questions early in the year. They were on the field a lot. When the chips were down they came through,” Palka said. “Our defense is growing up fast and they showed it again tonight.”
Saline took over at its own 17 with 2:52 to play in the third.
On first down, Daniels through a short pass to Murphy – who rumbled down the field for an 80-yard pick up.
“We had a run-pass option play that coach Palka called in. I was so excited getting down the line. I tried not to show I was going out on a fade. He faked the hand-off quick and I busted down the field as fast as I could. I looked quick and he gave me the ball. I just tried to keep running,” Murphy said.
Murphy was finally brought down at the Bedford three.
“That play we hit on the little pop pass really turned the tide of the game. He had enough speed to get it down to the five years. Everyone always doubts Murph’s speed but he really came through there,” Palka said.
Two plays later, Daniels rushed in for six. Patteri’s extra point kick was good. Saline led 14-7.
The momentum Bedford enjoyed was now Saline’s. Bedford’s next possession went nowhere. Wisniewski, Gildersleeve and Garbo had tackles as Saline forced a three-and-out. The Mules punted from their 33.
For the second consecutive series, Saline showed that trademark big-play ability.
After a 14-yard pass to Murphy moved the ball to the Saline 42, Daniels waited in his pocket and then aired one out for Andrew Diuble. Diuble had a few steps on his man, made the catch and then ran into the end zone.
“It was huge. We were up by a touchdown. Getting up by two really sealed the deal,” Diuble said.
Palka said he thought Diuble and Daniels played very well in the second half.
“Diuble is still dinged up. When we lost Munday we had to have him in the backfield. Then he goes back out and beats man coverage and Cole put it on the money,” Palka said. “Cole and Diuble in the second half really showed their stripes.”
Patteri’s kick made it 21-7.
Saline’s defense gave up nothing on the next series. Wisniewski, Collick and Garbo had tackles setting up a 4th-and-8, after false start penalty. The 4th-and-8 pass was incomplete. Saline took over at the Bedford 34. A series of short passes and runs gave Saline a first down at the Bedford nine. Diuble rushed for four yards and then Hayden Scott rushed for four yards, giving Saline the ball at the one. But a penalty sent Saline backwards and the Hornets settled for three points on Patteri’s 22-yard field goal. Saline led 24-7.
The Hornets recovered JT Turner’s kick off when Cam Richardson picked it up at the Bedford 17.
Hayden Scott had rushes of five and nine yards before punching one in from three yards. Patteri’s kick made it 31-7 with 2:09 to play.
Saline hosts Huron next Friday. (Standings Below)
Mancino’s Pizza & Grinders 3 Stars
- Cole Daniels – At the start of the season, Coach Palka said he expected Daniels would keep getting better as the season went on. Daniels, a Kentucky baseball commit, spent much of the summer away from football. Each week, Daniels looks more and more comfortable. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
- Andrew Diuble – Diuble had his best game of the season. He was productive as a rusher when Munday was hurt. He had the game-breaking touchdown. Overall, he seemed to have an extra gear Friday night.
- Brendan Murphy – Caught one touchdown pass. Blocked for his runners and QB. Had a huge gain to set up a second TD. Between Murphy’s contribution, the continued improvement of Diuble, Munday and Daniels, the so-close-you-can-taste-it breakthrough for Emmett Turner and the use of MJ Griffin on the offensive side of the ball, the Hornet offense is showing signs of becoming a dynamic attack.
AROUND THE SEC Red
Saline 31 Bedford 7
Monroe 37 Skyline 20
Pioneer 34 Huron 6
Saline 1-0 2-1
Monroe 1-0 2-1
Pioneer 1-0 1-2
Bedford 0-1 2-1
Skyline 0-1 1-2
Huron 0-1 0-3