B&L Wins 28-24

MAKING THE STOP - Simeon Abney #32 and Hayden Cherry #12 bring down B&L’s Marvin Gantt in Friday’s 28-24 loss. (Photo by Trey Fingerlin)

Panthers Stun Tigers, 28-24

  Batesburg-Leesville scored with 27.7 seconds left in the game to defeat Saluda 28-24, spoiling the Tigers Senior Night, Fri., Nov. 1.
  With the win the Panther claimed second place in the region, while the Tigers dropped to third.
  Had the game been played to Halloween, Tiger fans may have thought they were watching an episode of the “Twilight Zone,” because in a week’s time, their “passing” Tigers were transformed into the “rushing” Tigers.
  Quarterback Noah Bell, who completed 37 of 57 passes for 408 yards against top ranked  Abbeville last week, only completed five of 12 passes for 110 yards against the Panthers.   One factor may have been star receiver Dallan Wright was injured and did not play
  Instead of passing, the Tigers rushed 36 times for 257 yards.
  The problem was not the offense, but the defense’s inability to stop B&L in the fourth quarter.
  The Panthers took a 14-6 lead in the first quarter.
  A shanked Bell punt set up a 42-yard scoring drive, which ended with a five-yard run by Amah-Dre Leaphart. A bad snapped foiled the PAT try and B&L led 6-0 with 6:07 to go in the first quarter.
  The Tigers came right back after the kick-off, marching 69 yards in eight plays. The big play was a 30-yard pass from Bell to Keenan Brooks, who missed the first nine games of the season with an injury. The touchdown came on a two-yard run Bell. A play off the Tiger spread conversion offense lost yardage and the game was tied at 6-6 with 3:13 left.
  The Panthers responded with a 63 yard drive in only five plays. The touchdown came on a 41-yard run by Leaphart. The pass for two was good, and the first quarter came to an end with B&L up 14-6.
  After the kick-off, Saluda moved 71-yards in seven plays. Bell scored his second touchdown of the night on a three-yard run. Adrian Vasquez kicked the PAT and the Tigers trailed 14-13 with 10:44 to go in the half.
  On their next possession, the Panthers got as close as the Saluda six-yard-line before back-to-back penalties set them back to the 20, where quarterback Tre Robinson was sacked for a seven-yard loss on fourth down.
  From the 27, Tyleke Mathis and Montrevious Baker gained 22-yards on successive carries, then Bell threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Jervon Whitt. Jacob McCary scored the two point play and Saluda led 21-14 with 6:54 to go.
  Once again, the Panthers marched down the field, getting as close as the Saluda four, where the Tiger defense held on  fourth down.
  The second half got off to a good start for the Tigers, as it appeared they would drive in for a score and a two touchdown lead, but at the B&L 25, Bell’s pass was intercepted at the two-yard-line. That may have been the turning point in the game.
  B&L moved to the 21, where Cade Bouknight got off a 28-yard punt.
  Mathis was hit out of bounds on the 23 yard punt return. When no flag was thrown, someone on the Saluda sideline said something and the Tigers were hit with a 15-yard penalty. Instead of starting at he Panther 25, the Tigers got the ball at the 40.
  The Tiger got as close as the one, where they were penalized for a crackback block, setting them back to the 16. That was another key error by the Tigers. Saluda had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Vasquez that gave Saluda a 24-14 lead with 1:13 to go in the third quarter.
  Then the wheels came off.
  On the kickoff Sam Espinoza attempted an onside kick. It might have worked had the kick had traveled further than seven yards. The Panthers got the ball at the Saluda 47.
  A 33-yard run by Leaphart on the first play of the first quarter put the ball at the Saluda two. A five-yard penalty against the Panthers didn’t matter, because Leaphart would score from the four on third down. Jackson Lorick’s kick made it 24-21 with 10:18 to go in the game.
  When the Tigers needed to get something going offensively after the kick-off, they failed to produce. Saluda managed one first down, but had to punt on a fourth and three at the Saluda 48. On only his second punt of the year, TJ Fallow got off a 45-yarder, forcing Batesburg-Leesville to start with the goal line 93-yards away.
  All the Tiger defense needed was a stop. They didn’t get it.
  The big play in the drive came with B&L facing fourth and ten at their own 22-yard-line. Robinson completed a 14-yard pass for the first down.
  The 93-yard drive ended with just 27.7 seconds to go in the game with a seven-yard Robinson touchdown pass to the corner of the endzone. Lorick’s kick made the score 28-24.
  Any chance of a Saluda miracle ended when Whitt fumbled with kick-off return and the Panthers recovered and ran out the clock on the next play.
 It was a disappointing end of the regular season for the Tigers, who dropped their last two games.
  Saluda’s offense produced 367 yards. Bell, who had thrown for 300-plus yards in four straight games, only managed 110-yards through the air, his lowest total since last year’s Silver Bluff game, when the threw for 84.
  The 257-yards rushing was the most since the Malik Brooks’ days,and the Tigers had two 100-yard rushers in one game for the first times since 2015. Baker had the best game of his career, rushing 17 times for 127-yards, and while Bell had low passing numbers, he had best rushing game of his career, as well, picking up 109-yards on 17-carries.
  The bad news is the Tigers went from playing for first last week to finishing third in the league. The good news is the Tigers finished third, which has a much more attractive bracket set-up.
  By finishing second, if B&L wins its opening round game against Central of Pageland, the Panthers have to play 4th ranked Southside Christian in the second round,
  Saluda will host Blacksburg Friday, and if the Tigers win they will probably play Buford in the second round. Saluda defeated both Blacksburg and Buford in the playoffs last year.
  Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m. Fans are reminded seasons’ tickets are not valid for playoff games.