Seth Reavis took Hutton Haire’s hand-off up the middle of the Gatesville Hornet defense and sprinted for a 69-yard touchdown on the Salado Eagles’ first play from scrimmage at 10:29 in the first and the District 9-4A Div 2 game was never in question after that.
Salado’s stingy, aggressive defense forced the Hornets to a three-and-out series in the opening seconds of the game to set up the score. The defense would force the Hornets to two more three-and-out series in the first quarter, and the offense converted both stops into touchdowns for a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Reavis’ run was the longest play of the game as the Eagles drove drove 64 yards in eight plays with powerhouse running back Caden Strickland carrying the ball three times in a row before going out of the game with an apparent ankle injury midway through the first quarter.
On third and 3, Ryland Woods came into the backfield and took his first touch for a 28 yard touchdown with 5:31 left in the first. Daniel Chtay kicked his second PAT to put Salado up 14-0.
Salado drove 68 yards on 12 straight running plays, scoring on a 2-yard dive by Aidan Wilson with 9:44 left in the first half. Chtay was good as gold for the 21-0 lead before the Eagle defense gave up its first first down of the game with nine minutes left in the half.
Gatesville turned in a 69-yard scoring drive thanks to deft passing by Wesley Brown and a run of 23 yards by Brown, forcing Salado to regroup with a timeout at 8:21 in the half. Two plays after the timeout, the Hornets put points on the board with an 8 yard run by Hayden Mooney with 6:41 left in the half. The defense stifled a two-point attempt to leave Gatesville trailing 21-6.
A holding call against Salado on the ensuing kick return backed the Eagles up to their own 10.
Salado used that six minutes left in the half to grind 90 yards on 15 plays, including Haire converting a fourth and 1 to go by following his center for three yards. Haire also completed a pass to Seth Reavis with 20 seconds left on the clock and then found Gavyn Keyser in the back of the end zone with six seconds for the fourth touchdown. Chtay toed the extra point for a 28-6 halftime lead.
The Eagles received the second half kickoff and ended up doing something rare for Salado, punting on a fourth and 19 at the Gatesville 35-yard line. Nic Bates’ punt went into the end zone for a touch back,
The Hornets got to midfield before being shutdown and forced to punt, burying Salado at its own 16 yard line.
Which, in all honesty, is the position Salado likes to find itself with many yards to go and time to eat off the clock. Salado did just that, eating six minutes of clock and 84 yards in 10 plays. Haire rolled around end and dashed 48 yards for the end zone with 8:43 left in the game. Chtay was again gold for a 35-6 lead.
The Eagles defense again forced the Hornets to a three-and-out series. Salado took advantage of a punt that seemed to go higher than it did farther and took over at the Gatesville 43. Adam Benavides, in for the hobbled Strickland bulled for a few yards followed by runs of 15 yards and a scoring run of 14 yard by Kase Maedgen with 3:17 left in the game. Chtay booted the extra point for a 42-6 lead.
Brown seemed determine to lead Gatesville to a touchdown in the waning seconds of the game, but Josh Huckabee, laying back to the end zone, intercepted his pass for a touch back with 15 seconds left in the game.
The defense allowed Gatesville to cross midfield twice in the entire game while the offense scored on every possession but one.
The Eagles churned 476 yards of offense with just 30 of them in the air. Meanwhile, the defense held Gatesville to 167 total yards on 39 players for an average of 4.3 yards per play. The Hornets had 80 yards in the air and 87 on the ground.
The game was moderately clean for both teams as the Eagles were tagged for four penalties for 30 yards and the Hornets were called twice for 20 yards.
Salado converted six of 10 third downs and converted all three fourth down tries. The defense held the Hornets to just five third down conversions on 11 attempts.
Eight Eagles carried the ball, led by Reavis who had 150 yards on 14 carries and a TD. Benavides followed with 78 yards on 12 carries. Haire had nine carries for 75 yards and a touchdown. Wilson had 67 yards on 17 carries and a TD. Maedgen had two touches for 29 yards and a TD. Woods had a 28 yard TD run. Strickland went out with 19 yards on three carries.
No runner for Gatesville had much luck penetrating the Salado defense. Brown had 32 yards on seven carries to lead the Hornets.
He also threw for 80 yards and a TD in 11-of-16 passing.