Holy Names briefly spoiled the opening night festivities at Hornet Stadium, but Saline answered with nine straight touchdowns to win 69-13.
It was the largest offensive output in at least 66 years of football, according to records posted online.
Saline improved to 2-0.
The Holy Names Knights stunned the Hornets early in the game, when Zach Herzog returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown. Saline took the lead on a 50-yard-touchdown from Zach Schwartzenberger to Emmett Turner. But just 25 seconds later, Herzog found a huge hole and went 84 yards for a touchdown to give the Knights a 14-13 lead.
Saline head coach Joe Palka said it proved to be a good wake up call.
“They smacked us in the mouth there a little bit. In retrospect that was a good thing because it helped us get over all the home-opener hype and remind us that we needed to play football,” Palka said. “I was very happy with the way we responded.”
Outside of the 84-yard run by Herzog, the Knights could only muster 30 yards on the Hornets. The Hornets allowed two passes on nine attempts for -11 yards.
Saline piled up 471 yards on offense, 208 in the air and 263 on the ground.
“I think the thing I was most impressed with is that we didn’t punt once,” Palka said.
Things didn’t start well for Saline. After moving the ball about 25 yards to the Knights’ 40, Zach Schwartzenberger (17-for-21, 198 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 3 rushes for 37 yards and 1 TD) threw to Nate Gresser on the Knights’ sideline. Gresser made the catch on a high throw, but he was hit hard and lost control of the ball. Zach Herzog picked it out of the air and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown. The Knights led 6-0 a little more than a minute into the game.
Saline answered on the next drive. The Hornets started at the 26. Schwartzenberger moved the Hornets out to the 50 with two passes to Andrew Diuble.
On the next play, Schwartzenberger threw to Emmett Turner, who leaped over the defender and caught the ball. He spun out of a tackle and then sprinted the final 20 yards for the touchdown. Vinnie Patteri (9-for-10 on extra points) made the kick for a 7-6 lead.
The Knights scored again on their next drive. Herzog started to the left and then cut to the middle and found a huge hole. He went 84-yards untouched for the touchdown. Holy Names led 13-6 after the kick.
Senior Defense End Sean O’Keefe said the team wasn’t worried.
“It was a rough start. We were a little nervous with it being the first game of the year. The coaches do a good job preparing us to deal with adversity. We didn’t do anything special. We just knew that the offense would score and that we would stop them eventually,” O’Keefe said.
He was right. The Hornets scored every time they touched the ball for the rest of the game, until they ran out the clock on their final possession. On the other side of the ball, the Saints never pushed the ball into Hornet territory the rest of the game.
Connor Hibbard (14 carries, 118 yards, 3 TDs) was the star of the next drive. Saline started at their 28. On first town, Hibbard rushed 23 yards. Then he rushed for six more yards. Schwartzenberger passed to Diuble (6 catches, 33 yards, 1 TD) for a first down.
A few players later, Hibbard rushed for a 17-yard touchdown. After Patteri’s kick, Saline led 14-13.
Saline’s defense forced a three-and-out on the next series. The Hornets took over at their 36. After a first down, the drive stalled at midfield, but on 4th-and-5, Schwartzenberger drew the Knights offside for a first down. Schwartzenberger then rushed for 21 yards on the next play. He passed to Diuble for a five-yard gain and then rushed for nine yards on a keeper for a first down at the seven.
On the next play, Schwartzenberger passed to Diuble at the two. Diuble spun off the tackle and fell into the end zone. After the Patteri kick, Saline led 21-13. A long first quarter wasn’t over yet and five touchdowns had been scored.
On the first play of the second quarter, the Hornet defense chased the Saints’ QB out of his pocket. The QB tossed one too close to Saline’s Phillip Barnett, who made the catch and then ran 28 yards for the TD. Saline led 28-13 after the Patteri kick.
The Hornets were hitting on all cylinders. The defense forced another three-and-out. Saline took over at its 37. Schwartzenberger through to Nate Gresser for a first down.
On the next play, he passed to Turner, who shook off one tackler, stiff armed another and outraced a third defender to the end zone.
“Emmett’s a great weapon for us. He’s a lot like Bryce Wolma. He’s big and strong and he can make plays,” Palka said.
Saline’s defense got the ball less than two minutes later. Schwartzenberger passed to Wolma for 12 yards. Then Hibbard ran for a seven-yard pick up. Another pass to Wolma gave Saline a first down. A flat pass to Hibbard gave Saline a first down at the seven.
On the next play, Schwartzenberger dropped back, tucked it in and ran into the end zone. Saline led 40-13.
The Knights’ next drive ended with another 3-and-out. On third down, Ethan Collick delivered a hard hit on the Knight’s QB, who somehow stayed up. But O’Keefe followed and flattened the QB. The Knights punted from deep in their own territory.
Saline took over at the Knights’ 33. Hibbard rushed for 24 yards. Schwartzenberger passed to Gresser for nine yards. Hibbard gained another eight yards for a first down at the Knights’ three. Two plays later, he followed his blocks into the end zone. Saline led 48-13.
The second half started with the Knights at their own 20 and a running clock. On third-and-8, the Knights’ QB attempted a pass toward the Saline sideline. O’Keefe batted it down and then chased it and caught the ball before it hit the ground. He rushed into the end zone for an apparent touchdown but the play was inadvertently whistled down after O’Keefe’s interception.
On first-and-goal from the Knights’ 15, Hibbard ran a sweep toward the Saline sideline and scored. Patteri’s kick made it 55-13.
Later in the third quarter, Cole Daniels entered at QB. Daniels and RB Brendan Munday led a long drive down the field. It finished with Munday scoring a 14-yard rushing touchdown.
Saline got the ball back when Jake Stein forced a fumble. It was picked up by Alex Littler. Saline took over at the Saints’ 20. A few plays later, QB J. Drew McGovern scored on a 17-yard rush.
Saline opens the SEC Red schedule next Friday when it hosts Skyline (0-2).
- Zach Schwartzenberger – The senior started at QB for the first time after getting picked off during the first series, he was nearly perfect the rest of the way. He completed 17 of 21 passes for three touchdowns. He also rushed 3 times for 37 yards and a touchdown.
- Emmett Turner – The junior, who missed most of last year with injury, caught two passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Like Bryce Wolma, he’s big, strong and athletic.
- Sean O’Keefe – The senior defensive end led a defense that quickly put a stop to the Canadian team’s attack. O’Keefe and the defensive line gave up next to nothing. O’Keefe also had a sack and he showed tremendous athleticism for a big guy when he batted down that pass and caught it and then beat everyone into the end zone.