ANN ARBOR – Saline defeated Huron, 35-0, Friday to earn its sixth win of the season and qualify for the MHSAA playoffs for the seventh straight season.
Saline, which is unbeaten since losing on opening night, improved to 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the SEC Red. Saline hosts Monroe, which sports an identical record, Friday night in a showdown for the SEC Red Championship. It’s also Saline’s homecoming game.
Brendan Munday carried 10 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Andrew Arbaugh completed eight of 15 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Arbaugh also ran for a touchdown. Brendan Murphy caught four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Joe Klomega also ran for a 13-yard touchdown. Saline’s defense held the line for its second straight shutout. The Hornets gave up just 66 yards of offense. They recovered four fumbles. Monty Green led the defense with five tackles. Kyle Greenwood, Brad Wisniewski and Jonah Ashby each had two.
The Hornets weren’t quite as sharp as they were in the 40-0 victory over Pioneer the previous week. But they scored 35 by halftime – so the clock ran throughout the second half and everyone was back home in Saline early.
“Today we were playing for a playoff berth and we got that accomplished. Now it’s for an SEC championship next week,” Saline coach Joe Palka said.
Palka expects the best of his Hornets every time out – so he was worried about the Hornets not playing their best against a team that had lost 36 straight games.
“It’s a tough situation because you’re coming to Huron, a team that has athletes but hasn’t won a game. It’s tough not to let your guard down,” Palka said. “It wasn’t pretty, but 35 points by halftime was where we needed to be. In the second half, with the running clock, we were just rolling all the other guys in.”
Saline’s defense gave up a little more than 10 yards before forcing Huron to punt on the River Rats’ open possession. Saline’s first possession began at their 34. A couple of runs by Munday and Arbaugh pushed Saline out to the 43, setting up a 4th-and-1. Munday got a lot more than one yard. He went 57 yards, untouched, for the touchdown.
Saline led 7-0 after JT Turner’s kick.
Ashby made two tackles and Zach Sabin made another as Saline forced another 3-and-out. Saline took over at their 44 but couldn’t move the football. Brendan Cropsey’s punt was blocked and Huron had the ball in Saline territory. But the River Rats couldn’t move the football. On 4th-and-11, Sabin hit the quarterback hard, jarring the football loose. Adonis Gammo fell on the loose ball. Saline took over at their 45.
Munday broke loose for a 35-yard gain on first down. Two plays later, Arbaugh passed to Munday for a 16-yard TD – but it was called back for a personal foul. Arbaugh passed to Murph for a nine-yard gain, setting up a 4th-and-3. Arbaugh then tricked the River Rats into an offside penalty for a first down at the Huron 8. Munday picked up six yards on first down and then pounded his way into end zone on second down.
Saline led 14-0 after Turner’s kick.
Saline regained possession just a couple plays later. Monty Green hit the running back and forced the ball loose. Harrison Hill recovered at the Huron with 10 seconds left to play in the first quarter. On the last play of the quarter, Joel Klomega ran the sweep, found a seam and scored. Saline led 21-0.
Saline’s defense gave up 15 yards on Huron’s next possession. Huron punted from their 34 and Saline took over at its 34. Three incomplete passes later, Cropsey punted. Huron took over at its 34.
On first down, Brad Wisniewski dropped the quarterback for a seven-yard loss. Huron punted from its 36. Saline’s next drive made it over midfield, but a 4th-and-6 attempt went nowhere and Huron took over at its 42. Saline’s defense came up with another 3-and-out – with Connor Terech and Kyle Greenwood making tackles and Ashby sacking the quarterback for a seven-yard loss on 3rd-and-11. Huron lined up to punt from its 34 – but the snap was high and punter ran for it. He was tackled at the Huron 24.
Munday picked up seven yards on first down. Arbaugh drew the defense offside again for a first down at the 12. On the next play, Arbaugh tucked the ball in and ran 12 yards for the score. Saline led 28-0 with 2:49 to play in the quarter.
Huron nearly scored on the ensuing kickoff. The placekicker, JT Turner made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Saline 41. Huron got as far as the Saline 20, where they had a 3rd-and-1. The River Rats botched the snap and Monty Green recovered. Saline took over at its 20 – with the longest field it would have all night.
The field got even longer, because Arbaugh was dropped for a nine-yard loss on first down. After an incomplete pass on second down, Saline faced a 3rd-and-21 from its nine. MJ Griffin came in from the sidelines. Arbaugh threw to him along the Saline sideline. Griffin went way up and made a one-handed grab – snaring the ball against his shoulder pad. He came down and maintained control.
Saline had a first down at the 42.
Two plays later, after the Hornets picked up 15-yards on a roughing the passer penalty, the Hornets made another great play.
Arbaugh dumped a short pass over the middle to Murphy, who kept the legs moving and fought his way out of two tackles. Then he cut to the sideline and delivered a vicious stiff-arm to storm past another would-be tackler. He ran all the way to the end zone but officials ruled he stepped out of bounds at the Huron nine.
Arbaugh again passed to Murphy – this time on his right. Murphy lunged to make a nice catch and then dragged the tackler into the end zone with him.
Saline led 35-0.
In the second half, many of Saline’s hard working depth players enjoyed playing time. They didn’t move the ball much, but the defense kept the River Rats off the scoreboard.
Josh Brannan had a tackle for loss to prevent Huron from converting a 4th-and-2 at midfield. Logan Plumley also had a tackle for a loss on a 4th down attempt.
Andy Clark recovered a fumble late in the game for Saline’s defense.
Up 35-0, the youngsters and depth guys took care of business and made big plays – but they didn’t celebrate their success in a way that might be offensive to a dejected home team.
“We try to do things the right way and that means win the right way and lose the right way. We talk about matching our expectations. If we were to act unsportsmanlike or not play hard, that’s not our expectation,” Palka said. “I’m proud our kids carried that out on the game field. That’s certainly what we see every day in practice. We respect the opponent. They understand that Huron’s back were against the wall a bit with their numbers. It’s a hardfought game, but you can do things the right way and I’m proud that our kids are doing that.”
Mancino's Pizza & Grinders 3 Stars
- Brendan Munday – Munday and Murphy, Saline’s bash brothers, send defenses home with a lot of bruises. The River Rats loaded up the box but Munday still scored two touchdowns and picked up yards. His offensive line created a huge hole for him on the long TD run that opened the scoring.
- Monty Green – Led the Hornets in tackles, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble. Green’s had several strong games for the Hornets this year.
- Brendan Murphy – Helped with the blocking – but his yards after the carry on his long reception was probably the highlight of the night. (MJ’s catch right before that was likely the other prime nominee). Watching Murphy attack defenses is one of the best reasons to watch Saline football.