On a night when Saline pounded Adrian, 57-8, the Hornets spent a considerable amount of time dwelling upon the eight points allowed.
That should tell you something about this team’s obsessive commitment to improvement.
“We want to be perfect. You’re never going to get there. But we still need to strive for it,” coach Joe Palka said.
Saline improved to 2-1 as the team gears up for conference play, which begins next Friday at Hornet Stadium when the Hornets host Huron in the annual homecoming game.
Palka was enthusiastic about the team’s work at practice this week. So perhaps nobody among the thousands at Hornet Stadium was less surprised when Saline jumped to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter and carried a 57-0 point lead into the dressing room at halftime.
“I was really happy with the first half. We talked to the team before the game about, regardless of the opponent, getting better - better than we were yesterday and better than we were a week ago. When I came in at halftime, I really felt we had done that,” Palka said. “We were a little sloppy in the second half. Those things can happen in games like this.”
In many ways, the game felt like a repeat of last week’s 61-0 drubbing of Brantford Assumption. Saline dominated in yardage from scrimmage, 403-42.
Quarterbacks Larry Robinson (3-for-4, 138 yards, 3 TDs in the air, 2 rushes for 22 yards and 2 TDs on the ground) and Anthony Ferrari (4-for-5, 34 yards, 1 TD in the air, 3 rushes for 21 yards) took turns behind center in the first half - and both enjoyed success. Austin Usher (seven rushed for 26 yards) entered even earlier this week, taking snaps in the second quarter.
Cade Gilless continued to display speed and power at running back, rushing eight times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. And receiver Kolton Malinczak had another huge game for the Hornets, catching four passes for 144 yards and two TDs. Eric Peoples and Luke Darmos also caught touchdown passes.
The Hornet defense gave up next to nothing until Adrian scored with a short field in the fourth quarter. The Saline defense was helped by the return of Kyle Greenwood, who leaped high into the air for an interception that he nearly returned for a TD in the second quarter. Greenwood also tackled an Adrian runner in the backfield. Noah Nelson led all Hornets with 3.5 tackles. Henry Koenen had three tackles, two behind scrimmage. Mony Green had 2.5 tackles and one for a loss. Zach Sabin had two tackles, both for a loss. Brett Baldus, Josh Brannan and Sammy Lupascu also made tackles behind scrimmage.
Saline opened the game at its 32 after a 17-yard kickoff return by Gilless. Ferrari started at QB and he got things moving with a 10-yard run. On 3rd-and-8, Gilless gained all eight yards on the ground. A short pass to Malinczak and a run by Gilless gave Saline another first down at the Adrian 34. Again, the Hornets moved the chains with a pass to Malinczak and a run by Gilles. Ferrari tucked the ball for two keepers to move the ball down to the Adrian seven. On first-and-goal from the seven, Ferrari passed to Luke Darmos, who used jumped and used his long frame to bring the ball down for six points. Saline led 7-0 after Brendan Cropsey’s kick.
Saline’s defense came out firing. Monty Green dropped the Adrian running back for a loss on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Henry Koenen broke through the line and dropped the Adrian quarterback for a three-yard loss.
Saline’s next drive began at its 43 with Robinson at QB. After a 13-yard gain by Robinson on the ground, Robinson found Malinczak over the middle with a pass. Malinczak raced a Maple down the field, throwing one tackler off him and bulldozing another at the goal line, for a 44-yard touchdown reception. Cropsey’s kick was good. Saline led 14-0.
It was the kind of play that showcased what Malinczak brings to the Hornets.
“He gives us everything. Toughness. Great hands. The ability to run with the football. And he’s a great leader for us,” Palka said.
Saline’s defense forced another three-and-out, thanks in part to Greenwood’s sack for a six-yard loss. Saline took over at the Adrian 47. On first down, Gilless picked up 18 yards. Greenwood, no stranger to the offensive side of the ball, entered the game and picked up 16 yards on the ground. Ferrari passed to Greenwood for another 12-yard gain.
A couple plays later, Gilless ran in for a touchdown. Saline led 21-0.
Koenen’s second down stop for a loss highlighted the next defensive series. Saline took over in their own territory and once again, Robinson spied Malinczak over the middle. This time, Malinczak just ran by everyone for an 85-yard touchdown play.
Saline was even better in the second quarter.
Gilless opened the scoring with a 35-yard rushing touchdown.
The next drive was capped by a nine-yard rushing touchdown by Robinson. Saline led 41-0.
The Hornets added two more points on a safety when a bad snap went over the Adrian quarterback’s head and went out the other side of the end zone.
Adrian’s next drive ended when Greenwood went way up to pick off a pass. He returned to the nine-yard line. Robinson passed to Eric Peoples for a 9-yard touchdown reception. Saline led 50-0.
It wasn’t over yet. Caden Winston returned a punt 35-yards for another Saline touchdown. Saline led 57-0 at halftime.
In the second half, the Hornets seemed content to run out the clock. But in the fourth quarter, the Hornets sent a snap over their punter’s head, giving Adrian a short field to work with. The Maples took advantage and scored, and then rushed in for a two-point conversion. Late in the game, Nick Dils broke free for a 33-year run and was tackled from behind seven-yards short of the end zone. The game ended after Usher took a couple of knees.
Saline opens the SEC Red season against Huron next week. Saline is looking for its sixth straight SEC Red championship. The Hornets have won 28 straight games in the SEC Red.
The Saline Post's 3 Stars:
- Kolton Malinczak - He's been a star each and every week. Two more touchdown passes - both highlight reel material. One showing speed. Another showing toughness.
- Henry Koenen - A couple of big tackles behind scrimmage set the tone. Sabin, Brannan and Baldus also had big games as the D-Line dominated. Green had a big game at linebacker as well.
- Larry Robinson - Threw for three TDs and ran for another. It's pretty hard to beat that on a night when he probably took 15 snaps.