By Tim Fleischer Editor-in-Chief
Momentum is a fickle thing.
One moment, you’ve got it. A moment later, and like the seeds of a dandelion, it is gone.
Salado Eagles found themselves in that position as they lined up for a short 25-yard fourth quarter field goal attempt to take the lead in their season opener Aug. 31 at University of Mary Hardin Baylor Crusader Stadium.
Annual rival Troy Trojans fell on the muffled snap to the holder and took over the ball with 7:46 and 77 yards between them and the Eagles’ goal line and a slim one-point lead.
If the Eagles defense forced a turnover or a quick three-and-out, Salado would still have a chance to take the lead.
But Troy took advantage of the change in fate and drove three-quarters of the length of the field in 16 plays. Workhorse running back Zach Hrbacek broke a tackle in the backfield and jetted toward the end zone with 34 seconds left on a fourth and goal.
It was his final carry of the game in a 29-carry night for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Beau Workman converted the two-point try for Troy to put the game out of reach and notch their 15-6 victory in this annual season-opening rivalry that is sure to be rematched in 2019.
It was a ground game throughout the 48 minutes of play as Troy had 192 yards on the ground on 35 touches. Troy quarterback Riley Cosper completed two of his seven pass attempts with catches by Ben Presley for 15 yards and by Workman for 14 yards and first downs. Caleb Self intercepted a pass for Salado and Tate Harvey intercepted a pass.
The Eagles spread the wealth with their ground game as Tate Harvey and Connor Cook both had 59 and 56 yards respectively. Harvey’s came on 12 carries while Cook’s came on 15 carries.
Thanks to the game-long run of 72-yards, Hunter Turk led the Eagles with 92 yards on just seven carries.
Turk’s run set up the Eagles’ only touchdown of the game. After the Eagles forced Troy to punt from midfield, Salado took over at its own 22 yard line. Turk took the ball through the Troy defense on a third and five before being dragged down at the one yard line by Cosper to prevent the TD. An offensive penalty moved Salado back to the six yard line and Salado pushed to the three before Harvey dove in for the score 1:53 left in the third. The kick went wide right and Salado trailed 7-6 going into the fourth.
Salado held Troy on the ensuing kick off. Thanks to flags for holding and motion and a quarterback sack by Tommie Barker on a third-and-27, Salado forced Troy to punt from deep in its own territory.
Harvey returned the punt 17 yards to the Troy 38. The Eagles then took four minutes to drive 30 yards to set up for the fourth down and two field goal try at the Trojan 8. The Eagles were hampered by back-to-back false starts, an incomplete pass and a fumbled snap before Harvey dashed 21 yards through the Troy defense on a third-and-19 to give Salado new life at the Trojan 27. Harvey also gave the Eagles another first down during the drive on a nine yard third down run.
The teams went scoreless through almost 23 minutes of play.
With 3:38 left in the first half, the Trojans took over at their own 40 yard line after forcing the Eagles to punt from their 23. After a 12 yard jaunt, Hrbacek blew through the Eagles defense for a 35 yard touchdown with 1:11 left to play in the first half. The kick was good for the 7-0 lead that they took to the lockers.
SHS Team Statistics THS
11 First downs 13
44-198 Rushing: carries-yards 35-192
3-1 Fumbles-lost 1-0
5-1-0 Passing: atts-comp-int 7-2-2
12 Passing yards 29
7-45 Offensive penalties-yards 9-50
1-15 Defensive penalties-yards 0-0
2-36.0 Punts-avg. 2-31.5
Troy: 1:11, 2nd; 35 yard run by Zach Hrbacek, kick good. Troy leads 7-0
Salado: 2:17, 3rd; 3 yard run by Tate Harvey, kick no good. Troy leads 7-6.
Troy: 0:35, 4th; 2 yard run by Hrbacek, two-point conversion by Beau Workman. Troy leads 15-6.
Rushing: Salado: Hunter Turk, 7-92 yards; Tate Harvey, 12-59, 1 TD; Connor Cook, 15-56 yards.
Troy: Zach Hrbacek, 20-203 yards, 2 TD, 1 fumble.
Passing: Salado: Wrook Brown, 5-1-0, 12 yards; Troy: 7-2-2 int, 29 yards.
Receiving: Salado: Ethan Scott, 1-12 yards; Troy Ben Presley, 1-15 yards; Beau Workman, 1-14 yards