Tigers Move to Third Round

MAKING IT COUNT- Saluda senior Demond  Johnson’s first pass catch of the season was a good one. It turned out to be a 54-yard touchdown play in Saluda’s 28-14 win over Ninety Six. (Photo by Trey Fingerlin)

Wildcats Fall for Second Time

  For the second straight week, Saluda snatched “victory from the jaws of defeat,” rallying in the fourth quarter to beat upset minded Ninety Six 28-14 at the Bettis Herlong Stadium at Matthews Field Fri., Nov. 10.
  With the victory, the Tigers advanced to the third round of the state play-offs for the third straight year, but the win was anything but easy.
  Twice since 2003, the Tigers had defeated a team during the regular season, then lost badly to that same team in the play-offs.
  It looked in the first half that history would repeat itself. Saluda beat Ninety Six 43-23 in the fifth game of the season, but this was not the same Wildcat team.
  Kentavius Williams, who gained over 200 yards rushing against the Tigers playing quarterback, started a wide receiver, and quarterback Evan Keller did not play in the first game. All total, the Wildcats had nine players that either didn’t start against the Tigers the first time or were playing different positions.
  The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie. The two Saluda drives in the period started at the Tiger six and three yard-lines respectively.
  On the drive from the three, the Tigers were able to move out to the 40, but tailback Jeremiah Stevens fumbled and the Wildcats recovered at the Saluda 43.
  On the second play of the second quarter and on fourth and three, the Wildcats called on Williams on the jet sweep, but Williams stopped and threw to Josh Gonzalez, who was so wide open he could have run the final 15-yards for the score backwards. The play covered 37 yards.  Morgan Rogers’ kick gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 11:07 to go in the half.
  On their next possession, the Wildcats moved 85-yards in 12 plays. Williams, again, had the big play on a 32-yard pass from Keller. Keller scored the touchdown on a four yard run. Rogers upped the Ninety Six lead to 14-0 with 3:14 to go in the half. Little did anyone know at that time this would be the Wildcats’ last score of the night.
  Aided by two 15-yard penalties against the Wildcats, the Tigers drove 67-yards on five plays to cut the Ninety Six lead in half. Quarterback Noah Bell threw 27-yards to Raquon Hartley for the score. Francisco Yepez kicked the PAT and the score stood at 14-7 with 1:43 to go in the half.
  Both the teams had threats end with turnovers in the final 1:43 and the score stood at halftime.
  In the second quarter, Tigers sophomore Cade Gentry broke his leg. Both teams gathered together at midfield to pray for Gentry, and the defensive back-kick holder, who had started every game since he was a freshman, waved to the crowd as he was carted off the field on a stretcher.
  Like last week against Central, Saluda was faced with staging a second half comeback, and like last week, the Tiger offense and defense rose to the occasion.
  Midway in the third quarter, the Tigers put together an 11-play, 67-yard scoring drive. The touchdown came on a one-yard run  by Bell. The snap was high and Yepez’ kick was blocked, making the score 14-13 with 2:35 to go in the third quarter.
  Time expired in the period with the Tigers losing going into the fourth quarter for the second straight week.
  A 14-yard sack of Keller set up Saluda’s go ahead score. Ninety Six had to punt after the sack, and a nice punt return by the Tigers was wiped out by a penalty.
  With the ball at the Saluda 46 on first down, Bell passed to Demond Johnson for a 54-yard touchdown. It was the senior Johnson’s first catch of the season. Bell threw to Hartley for the two-point conversion and the Tigers led 21-14 with 7:07 to go in the game.
  A sack of Keller by Saluda’s Bubba Robinson on Ninety Six’ next possession force the Wildcats to punt from their own 15. The Tigers got the ball at their own 43.
  Bell sparked the insurance drive, gaining 30-yards on second down to the Wildcat 21. With 43 seconds to go in the game, Bell scored on a three-yard run. Yepez kick completed the scoring at 28-14.
  Ninety Six’ desperation effort to score ended on a interception by Daquain Brunson.
  Ninety Six entered the second half with 101 yards rushing and 97 passing. They ended the game with 94 yard rushing and 129 passing, but 29 of those yards came in the final 43 seconds. Until those late passes, Saluda held the Wildcats to minus seven yards in offense in the second half.
  In the game, Bell broke Ryan Nichols’ record for most passing yards in a season 1774 to 1707. He also has broken Nichols’ records for  total offense 2232 to 1960, and touchdown accountability, 30 to 26. Nichols still holds the record for most TD passes, 20. It should be noted Bell missed out on compiling stats when C.A. Johnson forfeited the ninth game of the season.
  With the win, the Tigers raised their record go 11-1 and will host the third round against Lee Central, also 11-1. The only common opponent is Central of Pageland, who Saluda beat 24-21 and Lee beat 14-12.
  The winner of the game will advance to the Upper State championship.
  Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m.

SIGNS WITH LENOIR RHYNE - Saluda High senior basketball player Star Ergle signed to play for Lenoir Rhyne University last week, Following an impressive 2016-17 campaign where she averaged 28 points, seven rebounds, and three assists per game, Star was tabbed as one of the top ten best players in South Carolina for the 2018 class. Star has earned all-region honors the past three years as well as All-State Honors.  She also was recognized as a two-time region player of the year and a two-time All-Lakeland Player of the Year. Pictured with her are her parents Shona Davis Ergle, her father Paul Ergle and her coach Jeanette Wilder, who is also her aunt.