Salado Eagles controlled the clock with their ground game and relied on its stiff defense to keep the powerful Bellville Brahmas from scoring in the final minute to win the Area round of the 4A-2 playoff match 28-23.
The Eagles ate five minutes off the clock on its opening drive, to set the standard for Coach Alan Haire’s slot-T offensive approach of “if the other team doesn’t get the ball a lot, they can’t score a lot.”
Workhorse fullback Noah Mescher capped a 56-yard drive with a 6-yard TD run at 7:19 in the first. Wrook Brown toed the extra point for the 7-0 lead.
Bellville answered, driving 79 yards in 12 plays. Running back Robert Briggs got past the Eagle defense for a 31-yard touchdown run with 2:27 left in the first. Benito Florencio kicked the point after to tie the game at 7-7.
Salado answered quickly with Reid Vincent scoring on the first play from scrimmage of the second quarter on a 56-yard jaunt through the Brahma defense. Brown made it 14-7 with 11:51 left in the first half.
Bellville’s Richard Reese pounded the Eagle defense on a 13-play drive. The Brahmas set up for a first down at the Eagle 14-yard line, but the Salado defense stiffened and Peyton Miller flushed Brahma quarterback Jake Lischka out of the pocket and tackled him short of the first down marker to force Bellville to settle for a 25-yard field Florencio goal to bring the score to 14-10 with 5:52 left in the half.
Bellville took the second half kickoff and went for it on a 4th and 1, but Miller had different ideas, snuffing Reese at the line of scrimmage to give Salado the ball at the Brahma 42 yard line on downs.
Five plays later, Wrook Brown scored from the 10. He added the kick for a 21-10 lead with 7:42 left in the third.
Salado defense again stiffened, with passes broken up by Brown and LaTrell Jenkins and Kory Walker on third down to force Bellville to a three-and-out series. Salado drove 71 yards in six plays, with Brown scoring from the Brahma 6 yard line. Mescher had the big carry of the drive for 38 yards before being brought down from behind. Brown booted the PAT for a 28-10 with 4:09 left in the third.
Bellville answered, scoring with 28 seconds left in the third on a 32-yard pass from Lischka to Kyle Peschel. Florencio added the PAT for Bellville to trail Salado 28-17 going into the final 12 minutes of play.
Salado was plagued with calls, including a sideline infraction and a personal foul to kill a drive at the Brahma 42 yard line.
Bellville drove from their own 14 yard line to score in six plays, scoring on a 26-yard pass from Lischka to Trevon Green with 5:49 left to play in the game. Salado stopped the Brahmas on their two-point try to leave the score at 28-23.
Salado took the ensuing kick off at their own 27 yard line. A third down false start put the Eagles in a long yardage hole, but Reid Vincent pounded out 8 yards and Noah Mescher went for 9 yards on a gutsy call by Haire to go for it on fourth and 3 to go at Salado’s own 34 yard line. Salado pushed the ball across midfield and Vincent dashed through the Braham defense for a 37-yard TD that was called back for a hold with 2:34. The score would have put the game out of reach, but instead left Salado with a second and 18 to go from the Brahma 47 yard line.
Salado punted for a short 21 yards to give Bellville the ball at their own 21 yard line with 1:27 left to play.
A hold against Bellville, only the third penalty of the game against the Brahmas, pushed the ball back to the 11 yard line. The Salado defense was able to keep the scrambling Bellville offense on their side of the midfield marker as time ran out on the Brahma season.
Salado will face the #1 Carthage Bulldogs in the Regional round on Nov. 27 at New Caney ISD Randall Reed Stadium.