Three penalty calls ended the Salado Eagles’ season in the bi-district round of the playoffs, where they lost to the passing attack of the Rusk Eagles, 49-42, aided a great deal by the 12 flags thrown against them for 92 yards in penalties.
Salado overcame most of those penalties by hard running by Aidan Wilson, Adam Benavides, Seth Reavis, Kase Maedgen and senior four-year starting quarterback Hutton Haire.
The first of the three killer penalties came early in the third with Salado holding a 28-27 halftime lead over Rusk (thanks to Isaac Pettigrew blocking a point-after early in the game).
Seth Reavis took a hand off at the Salado 46 yard line and blasted past the Rusk defenders before being brought down at the Rusk 2 yard line. A holding call moved the ball back to the Salado 37 yard line. A false start pushed Salado even farther back and Salado was forced to punt, their only one of the game, an 18-yarder giving Rusk the ball near midfield. So, instead of going up by a score, Salado turned the ball over to Rusk, who in turn scored one of two TDs in the third quarter.
Rusk took the lead at 6:22 of the third on a 15 yard pass from Owen McCown to Trey Devereaux to lead 33-28. Rusk went for two and Salado broke up a pass in the endzone, but a roughing the passer gave Rusk a second shot, enough to go up 35-28 on another shot from McCown to Devereaux.
Will Dixon intercepted a Haire pass at the Salado 42 yard line and another defensive holding call on an incomplete pass was enough to set up a 30-yard TD pass from McCown to Tyler Rogers with 5:10 left in the third. Salado blocked the extra point to trail 41-28.
Salado responded with a 60-yard drive, topped by a 2-yard TD run by Haire with 10:08 left in the game. Daniel Chtay was good on the kick for Salado to close within a touchdown, 41-35.
Rusk answered with their final TD, overcoming a false start and a holding penalty that pushed them back to the Salado 17 yard line. A play later McCown hit Rogers for a TD and Rusk converted the two-point try to go ahead 49-35 with 6:40 left to play.
Salado drove 70 yards, scoring on a 25-yard run by Wilson. Chtay’s kick made it 42-49 with 2:10 left to play.
Salado used two quick timeouts to keep precious seconds on the clock, but Rusk was able to get a first down and run out the clock for the victory.
In this very competitive game, Rusk scored first, taking the opening kickoff and driving 69 yards in 13 plays with McCown diving in from the Salado 1. Pettigrew blocked the PAT.
Salado answered with a 60 yard drive following Josh Huckabee’s 17-yard kick return. On a third-and-5, Wilson dashed for a 55-yard TD. Chtay’s kick put Salado up 7-6 with 4:32 left in the first.
Rusk drove 60 yards in five plays, scoring on a 1-yard dive by Devereaux. The PAT kick made it 13-7 Rusk.
Salado answered with an 11-play drive as Haire ran past the Rusk defense on a quarterback draw for 29 yards. Chtay made it 14-13 with 9:30 left in the half.
Six seconds later, Rusk led again thanks to McCown hitting Caleb Ferrara for a 70-yard touchdown and a 19-14 lead when the PAT kick was blocked.
Salado scored on a 30-yard run by Wilson with Chtay giving Salado a 21-19 lead with 6:25 left in the first half.
After forcing Rusk to punt for the first and only time in the game, Salado extended its lead on a 21-yard touchdown run by Reavis. Chtay made it 28-19 with 1:35 left in the half.
Rusk used that time well, scoring on a 23-yard pass from McCown to Ferrara with 23 seconds left in the half. McCown connected with Devereaux for a two-point conversion to close the halftime gap to 28-27.
Salado had 439 yard total offense with only 5 of it in the air. Rusk had 461 yards total offense with McCown completing 28 of 35 passes for 392 yards passing.
Wilson had 221 yards rushing with three TDs, followed by Reavis with 98 yards and a TD. Haire had 46 yards in six carries and two TDs.