Salado will face Bellville in Region Semi-finals in Alamodome
By Larnce Barker Salado Sports
Bryan: The Salado Eagles football team advances to the sweet 16 of the 4A Division 2 State Playoffs with a 63-14 rout of the Liberty Panthers on Nov. 25.
The Salado–Liberty football game played at Merrill Green Stadium in Bryan raised eyebrows from the start as Liberty’s J.J. Slack took a reverse pitch from quarterback Bailey Brown and went right up the heart of the Eagles defense untouched for a 65 yard touchdown. Panthers kicker Jesus Landaverde made the PAT. Liberty took a 7-0 lead 15 seconds into the game.
Konnor Baird fair caught the ensuing kick for Salado at their own 38 yard line. The Eagles showed the Panthers how the slot-T offense works, scoring 56 straight points on eight offensive possessions.
Salado started with an eight-play drive when Hayden Haire hit a wide open Ryan Kyburz for a 38 yard TD pass. Jake Walrath kicked the extra point to tie the score at 7-7 with 9:00 left in the first quarter.
The Eagle defense got fired up on the Walrath kickoff when Wrook Brown had a solo shoe string tackle of the Panthers Jeremiah Guillory at their own 29 yard line. The Eagle defense rose up on the third play of the Liberty drive. Tommie Barker and Wyatt Bagley hit Brown in the backfield, causing a fumble that Mac Miller recovered at the Liberty 27 yard line.
Salado took advantage of the Panther turnover to score on a four-play drive. Cade Depoy took a handoff and followed guard Connor Cook’s block, to the right pylon for a 7 yard touchdown. Walrath’s kick with 5:28 left in the 1st quarter increased the Eagle lead to 14-7.
The Eagles defensive crew tightened up again as the Panthers had a 10 play drive, turning the ball over on downs at the Salado 47 yard line.
The Eagles worked the clock on an 11 play drive. Haire scored on a 2 yard run. Walrath kicked the PAT to give Salado a 21-7 lead with 7:28 left in the second quarter.
The Panthers tried to get back in the game as they worked their double wing offense down to the Eagles 5 yard line. Liberty’s J.J. Slack fumbled the handoff and the football bounced in the waiting hands of the Eagles Wyatt Bagley who scooped it up and ran 95 yards for the Salado touchdown. Walrath added the PAT to give Salado a 28-7 edge with 3:43 left in the first half.
The Panthers decided to go off script by passing the football, but Salado’s Tate Harvey intercepted a Keegan Turner pass at the Salado 36 yard line to kill the Liberty drive.
Eagles offensive lineman Bryce Wales, Connor Cook, Willy Whigham, Bobby Cunningham, Robert Soto and Ashten Sniggs went to work again to convert the turnover into points. The Eagles gave the Panthers defense a steady dose of five run plays before Trey Sheppard scored from three yards out. Walrath’s kick gave Salado a 35-7 lead with 40 seconds left in the first half.
Salado received the Panthers second half kickoff and took the football on an eight play scoring drive. Sheppard scored on a 1 yard run. Walrath kicked the extra point for a 42-7 lead with 7:12 left in the third quarter.
After the Walrath kickoff, the Panthers would have great field position at their own 48 yard line. Liberty would move the football with their traditional run plays to the Eagles 33 yard line as the Eagles stifled Liberty’s drive to turn the ball over on downs.
The Eagles offense would again flex its muscles. Depoy scored on a 63-yard run. Walrath’s kick made it 49-7 with 3:32 left in the third.
Salado forced the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs. The Eagles set up shop at midfield where it took just five plays for Salado to score, this time on Sheppard’s third touchdown of the night. A Walrath PAT with 11:44 left in the fourth quarter brought the score to 56-7.
Liberty mustered up one last score when K.K. Antoine ran 40 yards on the Salado’s reserve defense with 6:03 left in the fourth quarter to make the score 56-14.
On the following series, Salado turned the ball over for the first time in the game. However, the Eagles defense forced Liberty into a third and 8 passing situation. Wrook Brown intercepted J.J. Slack’s pass and returned to the Eagles 42 yard line.
The Eagles worked the football down the field on their final drive of the night from Sheppard and reserve backs Reid Vincent and Hunter Turk. Haire went into the end zone on a QB sneak with 3:00 left in the game. Walrath kicked the PAT to five Salado its final lead of 63-14.
Panthers Head Coach Chad Taylor gave kudos to the Salado Eagles defense saying, “The Salado defense had an answer for almost every Liberty offensive formation.”
Coach Taylor also said his team worked a lot on defense to stop the Salado running attack of the Eagles three 1,000-yard rushers.
The Eagles advance to the Region 3 Semi-Final round of the 4A-D2 State Football Playoffs and will play the Bellville Brahmas 8 p.m. Dec. 2 at the Alamodome.