Salado is alone at top of District with win
With just under four minutes left to play, Wrook Brown took a hand off on third down and 14 at the China Spring 37 and went outside his left tackle for a 27 yard jaunt to set up the Eagles for a first and goal.
Ultimately, it was the nail in the coffin of the 4A Div. 2 #6 team in state. The Eagles led by just seven points with four minutes to play, not enough with a team as explosive as China Spring. But with a first down at the Cougars’ 10 yard line, Alan Haire’s Eagles offense continued its grind.
Caden Strickland got five yards, followed by a two-yard dive by quarterback Hutton Haire. A facemask call moved it to the Cougar 1 yard line and a first down. Next play, Noah Mescher dove in for the touchdown with 2:40 left in the game. Brown’s kick gave the Eagles a comfortable 28-14 lead. Salado would hold on to win the game by that margin to improve to 7-1 on the year and 3-0 in District play, sitting alone at the top of District.
The Eagles defense then stepped up once again as the seconds clicked off the clock. China Spring pushed from their own 36 yard line to the Eagle 12 yard line. On second down and scrambling, China Spring quarterback Major Bowden couldn’t get the ball past the line of scrimmage, pushing the Cougars back to the 22 yard line. He hit Emmanuel Abdallah for 5 yards, leaving the Cougars 6 yards short. He threw to Tre Hafford on fourth but the receiver was out of bounds to turn the ball over on downs with 54 seconds left to play.
Mescher and Brown combined for a first down to allow Haire to kneel out the game.
The game lived up to its hype in central Texas football circles from its very start.
Salado kicked the ball to open the game and forced China Spring to a three-and-out series. The Eagles took over at their own 33 yard line and after a false start flag on first down, were forced to punt the ball on a fourth and 8.
Tristan Exline fumbled the punt but recovered the ball to give the Cougars the ball at their own 15 yard line. Seven plays later, Jordan Nevarez took a pitch from Bowden for a 22 yard touchdown. The kick gave China Spring a 7-0 lead with 6:05 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles then took seven minutes off the clock to score on a 2 yard dive by Strickland to cap a 15-play methodical 66-yard drive. Brown toed the PAT to tie the score with 11:07 left in the first half of play.
After trading possessions, China Spring drove from their own 30 yard line to the Salado 25 yard line for a third and short 1 to go. The Eagles defense stopped Bowden at the line of scrimmage to force a fourth down. They then stopped Abdallah at the line to take over on downs at their own 25 yard line.
On a third and 9, Brown went just outside the left tackle and out sprinted the defense for a 74-yard touchdown with 1:45 left in the half. He kicked the PAT for a 14-7 lead.
On the first play from scrimmage on the ensuing series, Ryan Poe stripped Bowden of the ball as the quarterback scrambled and cut back to avoid defenders. Poe fell on the fumble at the Cougar 30 to give Salado the ball with 1:20 left in the first half. With three seconds left in the half, Brown lined up for a 35-yard field goal. It missed, but the Cougars had called time out before the snap. He lined up again but the kick missed, leaving Salado with a 14-7 halftime lead.
Salado received the second half kick and drove 72 yards in 17 plays. The drive was saved on a third and 23 by Reid Vincent’s 23 yard run, setting up first and goal at the Cougar 8 yard line. Brown scored on a third and goal from 3 yards out. He kicked the PAT with 3:26 left in the third to give Salado a 21-7 lead in a drive that ate eight-and-a-half minutes of time off of the clock.
China Spring answered by driving 65 yards in five plays, highlighted by a 52-yard scramble by Bowden to set up a first and goal at the Salado 9 yard line. Three plays later Abdallah pushed it in from the 2 yard line with 1:47 left in the third. The PAT made it 21-14 Salado.
The Cougars tried an onside kick, but it went out before going 10 yards, giving Salado the ball at the China Spring 42 yard line. A miserable amount of false starts (three in four plays) put the Eagles in a third and 19. Haire hit Kole Maedgen for 12 yards and then overthrew Brown in the endzone to turn the ball over on downs.
The Eagles defense forced the Cougars to punt from deep in their own territory on a fourth and 16 at the 22 yard line. Salado then drove 58 yards in 13 plays and ate almost seven minutes of gametime to extend the lead to 28-14 on a 1 yard TD by Mescher.