Josh Jackson rushed for one touchdown, threw two touchdown passes to Jeb Palka and one to Bryce Wolma, and Connor Hibbard rushed for three touchdowns as Saline beat Ypsilanti 48-18.
The Hornets improved to 8-0 and could be done with their regular season schedule because Canadian team scheduled for Friday isn’t coming and the Hornets have been unable to find an opponent.
If no opponents are found, Saline has completed its first undefeated regular season since 1990.
“It feels good. There was a lot of hype surrounding us this year. We lived up to it,” said QB Josh Jackson, who completed 14-of-25 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed six times for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Coach Joe Palka said the Hornets should be proud of going undefeated...
“We came into the season with a target on our back and we went undefeated with schedule full of good football teams. It was quite an accomplishment,” Palka said.
Saline’s defense stopped Ypsilanti on two drives in the first seven minutes. On the first drive, the big play was made by John Raupp, who dropped the Jahz Watts for a big loss.
Ypsilanti recovered a fumble at its 42 and on its second drive moved the ball into Saline territory. On 4th-and-4 from Saline’s 36, John Raupp (eight tackles, three sacks) made the stop at scrimmage and the Hornets took over.
Ypsilanti loaded up the box to stop the run against the Hornets. So Saline went to the air. After a Josh Jackson keeper moved the chains, the Hornets got first downs on passes to Mike Monahan (3 receptions, 36 yards) and Jeb Palka (six catches 83 yards, two touchdowns). On 3rd-and-1 from the 14, Palka threw over the middle to Jeb Palka, who caught the pass and ran a few steps into the end zone for the score. Palka scored on the rush for a two-point play, but it was called back. Will Breen made the extra point. Saline led 7-0 with 1:53 to play in the first quarter.
The Grizzlies couldn’t move the ball against Saline on the next drive either. A 3rd-and-11 pass was caught but stopped by Robbie Felton well short of the marker and Ypsilanti punted to end the quarter.
Saline took over at its 44. A short pass to Zach Schwartzenberger and an encroachment penalty gave Saline a first down at the Ypsilanti 43.
On the next play, Jackson found Palka wide open up the middle for a touchdown. After a bad snap, the Hornets couldn’t get the extra-point kick off.
Breen didn’t seem fazed. On the ensuing kickoff, he booted the ball a few yards and recovered it himself – for the second time in three weeks. Saline moved the ball quickly down the field with masses to Monahan and Palka. The Hornets had a first down at the Ypsilanti 10.
Connor Hibbard (17 carries, 113 yards, three touchdowns) took over from there, rushing three times, including a one-yard touchdown. Saline led 20-0 less than six minutes into the half.
The next Ypsilanti drive was aided by a late-hit penalty against Saline (Ypsilanti was penalized several times in the game for late hits and unsportsmanlike conduct). The Grizzlies pushed it down to the Saline 15. Joey Salowich tackled an Ypsilanti runner five yards behind scrimmage.
Then on 3rd-and-19, senior Cal Livesay intercepted a pass returned it 64 yards to the Ypsilanti 24.
Referees tacked on another 12 yards (half-the-distance to the goal) for a late hit. Then they did it again for unsportsmanlike conduct. Saline had a first down at the Ypsilanti 6.
On the next play, Josh Jackson scored on a keeper. Saline led 27-0 with 5:13 to play.
It took Saline less than nine minutes to turn a scoreless game into a rout.
Ypsilanti finally got on the board on their next possession when Marquis Smith scored on a terrific run.
Saline led 27-6 at halftime.
After a solid kickoff return by Palka opened the second half, Saline went back to work. Jackson passed Bryce Wolma who ran a slant over the middle, caught the ball, and kept running. Around the 10 yard line, he spun out of a tackle and into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown reception. Saline led 34-6.
The teams traded unsuccessful drives. An Ypsilanti drive ended when Raupp dropped the quarterback for a loss on 3rd-and-8. The Hornets took over at their 29 with 6:07 left to play in the third. Runs by Schwartzenberger and Jackson gave the Hornets a first down. On 4th-and-11 near midfield, Jackson passed to Stevie Kise along the Ypsilanti sideline for a first down at the 24.
A couple plays later, Connor Hibbard rushed in from 14 yards for another Saline touchdown. The Hornets led 41-6.
Saline’s defense, which gave up 116 yards on 33 carries against a speedy Ypsilanti backfield, forced the Grizzlies into another 3-and-out. But the Hornets’ next drive went nowhere. On 4th down, punter Will Breen dropped the snap in the end zone and the Grizzlies scored a safety.
Ypsilanti added another rushing touchdown from Marquis Smith, plus a two-point play, to make it 41-18 with 11:01 to play in the game. Saline’s Ian Kwant recovered Ypsilanti’s onside kick attempt. The next Hornet drive was stopped and Saline punted.
Ypsilanti’s drive was foiled when Zachary Owings made a big tackle on 4rd-and-3. Saline took over at its 24. Hibbard handled it from there. He rushed for 27 yards on first down. Then he added a few more yards before rushing 22 yards for a first down at the Ypsilanti 20. He ran for 16 more yards for a first down at the four.
He ran two more times for the touchdown.
Saline led 48-18.
Palka said the team has until Monday to find an opponent next Friday. If not, the team is content with going into the playoffs with an 8-0 record.
“We’ve got a few guys who are banged up, so rest wouldn’t be bad,” coach Palka said.
Jackson said he felt the team was ready to start the playoffs.
“We’ve always got things to improve on. But we’re ready to go,” Jackson said.
“We’ve got some things we need to work on, but we’re going in the right direction,” Palka said.
A&H Lawn Service Saline Football Three Stars
- Josh Jackson – Took a lot of abuse, including some late hits. He kept getting up and making plays. He threw for 212 yards and three TDs (no interceptions) and he rushed six times for 34 yards and a touchdown.
- Alec Richards – He’s been an unsung hero in the backfield for the Hornets. He had another impressive game, delivering big hits and providing strong pass coverage. John Raupp, Zachary Owings and Cal Livesay also had big games on defense.
- Connor Hibbard – Last week at Monroe, Hibbard was held off the score sheet for the first time. He made up for it with three touchdowns and 117 yards rushing on 17 carries. He’s got nine rushing touchdowns. Jeb Palka also had a big day with two TD catches.