Tidbits -November 28 2019

TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY



DREAM GAME

  It isn’t often in your lifetime you get to see the team you support have a dream game, but the Saluda Tigers, players, coaches and fans, supplied or witnessed one last Friday at Southside Christian.
  Oh, we see great upsets during the season.
  Saluda opened the year with a two-day, 22-21 win over arch-rival Strom Thurmond. That was a great win, but the Rebels are 3-A, so it was a pre-region game.
  Carolina pulled a miracle win over third ranked Georgia earlier, but has turned that dream win into a nightmare season.
  Those were great wins, but a dream win is one that comes in a winner takes all game against a team you are not supposed to beat.
  Saluda beat Southside Christian 56-42 Friday in Simpsonville.
  To put that into perspective, Southside Christian’s only loss was 14-10 to top ranked Abbeville. The most points the Sabres had allowed in a game this year was 21. The Tigers had 28 at halftime.
  In a game against this top defense, Saluda had touchdown passes of 73 and 89 yards. They had two different players return kick-offs all the way.
 In a dream game you keep waiting to wake up, but the thousands from Saluda at the game never did. It was for real!
  A lot can be said about the character of teams and how the handle success and failure.
  After beating Georgia, the Carolina football team has gone 1-4. Their incompetence allowed a 2-5 Tennessee team to score 24 unanswered points and propel themselves to a four game losing streak to become bowl eligible.
  The Vols coaches and players showed how to react to a big victory. They are now winners. The Gamecock coaches and players after the big win over Georgia became losers. And even if they pull the biggest upset in the history of the world Saturday against Clemson, they will finish the season as losers.
  Saluda lost in the last 27 seconds against arch-rival Batesburg-Leesville in the last game of the regular season. In two weeks time, the Tigers went from conference champion contenders to finishing third in the league.
  How did they respond? Would they go winner Vols, or loser Gamecocks?
  Well, we know.
  In the first round of the playoffs, the Tigers beat Blacksburg 42-7. I was that close, because after leading 42-0 at halftime, the Tigers called off the dogs.
  Then the Tigers had to travel all the way to Lancaster to take on Region 1-A champion Buford. In a steady rain, the Tigers won 55-22.
  That set up the rematch with another regionn champion, Southside Christian, who beat B&L 23-6. You noticed that? B&L, who beat Saluda 28-24,  scored six points against the Sabres.
  Next to the loss to Abbeville, Southside Christian’s closet game was against Saluda, a 16-13 Sabre win.
  Friday, when freshmen Tyleke Mathis returned the game’s opening kick-off for a touchdown, Tiger fans felt we might be in for a dream win. In the first meeting in September, Saluda fumbled the opening kick-off and SCA recovered.
  Every time the Sabres struck, the Tigers came back, and in the second half, Saluda took the lead and never relinquished.
  The many Tiger fans agree this was one of the most enjoyable wins we had ever seen.
  Yes, it was a dream win that propelled the Tigers to their fourth appearance in the 2A Upper State Championship in the last five years. Southside Christian eliminated Saluda in the 36 degree rainfall last year, or it would have been five for five ... all against Abbeville.
  I look back on these 43 seasons I’ve covered Saluda football, and remember all the seasons we finished break even or below, mostly below.
  The Tigers won the conference championship in 1973, and would not win another one until 1997. Saluda went from 1973 to 1995 between play-off appearances, and we lost that 1995 play-off game on a last second field goal by a player who have never kicked, nor attempted,  a field goal in his life.
  As a person who written down every play for the last 43 seasons, you can imagine how thrilling these last fives seasons have been to me.
  The Tigers have gone 52-15 in those five years, and have made it to the Upper State title game four times. Prior to 2015, Saluda High had been to Upper or Lower State title games nine times since 1920.
  Not only have these teams won games, they have broken all school offensive yardage and scoring records.
  Prior to 2015, the school record for most points scored in a season was 371 by the great 11-1 1973 team. Since 2015, all five teams have broken the previous scoring record: 2015 - 429, 2016 - 563, 2017 - 387, 2018 - 406, and this year - 520.
  Players have set records that may never be surpassed. Malik Brooks rushed for 4749 yards and scored 438 points, including 210 his senior year. Brooks missed all but one game of his freshman year with a broken arm. Imagine what totals he would have been.
  Dylan Strickland set the state record by kicking 75 straight extra points.
  This season, quarterback Noah Bells broke all his previous passing and total offense records, and Dallan Wright has broken all the receiving records. I’ll hold off on their totals until the season is over, but I will tell you Noah has over 10,000 yards in total offense! Think about that!
  The only thing these great teams is missing is an Upper State or State Championship trophy, and there is only one reason for this, and it’s called Abbeville.
  Friday, the Tigers will meet Abbeville at Hite Field for the fourth time in the last five years. I’ve said it before, two of those games the Tigers should have won, but didn’t.
  In the first meeting this year, Abbeville won 48-20, but the Tigers had nearly 500-yards in total offense. The difference was Tiger mistakes.
  I said in previous columns the Tigers were capable of beating Southside Christian and Abbeville.
  The Sabres fell.
  Will this be the year to finally beat the Panthers?

STATEMENT

  With the elation of Saluda making it to the Upper State game, comes the depression of Carolina having to play Clemson the next day.
  At least with the 12 noon start, the game will be over early and people can sit back and enjoy good games later.
  I have a feeling Dabo is going to make this a statement game. Clemson gets no love nationally because the Tigers play is a weak conference, which is not their fault. A blowout win over the only SEC team to beat Georgia will answer come critics, even though Carolina at the present time is an awful football team.
  Perhaps, the Gamecocks will magically find some offense Saturday. I don’t know where they’ll find it, but maybe it will show up in a players no one has ever seen.
  I have lost all confidence in this team, but I would love for the Gamecocks to surprise me.
  Until they do surprise me, I’m looking for Clemson to break the 63 point record.
  I will not be watching or recording, because as I said several months ago, the season ended with the opening loss to North Carolina. I was so right.

SADDENED

  I was saddened to learn of the passing of Carolyn Quattlebaum.
  No matter where I saw her, she was always smiling.  I looked forward to seeing her at our Emory-Nazareth gatherings.
  She worked so many years in the doctor’s offices in town and everyone loved her.
  She will be greatly missed.