FOOTBALL: Saline Beats LIncoln, 42-7 as Community Rallies for ChadTough Foundation
It was a Saline football family event. It was also a community fundraiser for a cause that's united people in Saline, over and over again.
And, finally, it was another big win for Saline football.
Saline beat Lincoln 45-7 to improve to 3-0 this season and 2-0 in the SEC Red. The familiar Hornet blue played second fiddle to orange - the favorite color of Chad Carr, the little boy who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor on September 23, 2014 and whose 14-month fight against cancer inspired people in Saline and around the country.
It was only fitting Friday, nearly seven years after Chad passed away, that in a stadium full of fans wearing orange shirts and football players wearing orange socks, that Chad's eldest brother CJ Carr through 3 touchdown passes his other brother Tommy, a freshman, made his varsity debut. The fundraisers likely raised thousands of dollars for the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation, which raises funds to research treatment for pediatric brain cancer.
"When you see the whole crowd in orange and you see both Lincoln and us sharing in the mission even though we're competitors on the field, it's really a special night, in a lot of ways," Saline coach Joe Palka said. "Everybody wins tonight and it puts things in perspective."
In terms of the football game, there was only one winner. It was Saline. The Hornets built a 45-7 halftime lead before they took the foot off the gas.
"I think we were opportunistic. We took advantage of some turnovers and some good field position to score our points. Anytime you have a 42-7 win a lot of good things obviously happened.
Lincoln kicked off to Saline and the Hornets started at their own 30. On the first play from scrimmage, CJ Carr passed to Roman Laurio, who tweaked his ankle and never returned. A couple plays into the game, Saline faced a 4th-and-2 at its 39. Palka didn't want Saline's first drive ending with a 3-and-out. So the Hornets went for it.
The decision to go for it was striking because last week's win at Huron seemed to hinge on Saline stopping Huron in a similar situation.
Carr completed a pass to Matt Walper for the first down.
"Maybe it's just because of who we have on offense. I feel like we can be aggressive, that we can pick it up. We do enough formationally that we're going to find the opening and hit it," Palka said.
The decision paid off. Two plays later, Carr, rolling out to the Saline sideline, tossed a long ball for Matt Walper, who made the catch at the Lincoln eight. On the next player, Ryan Niethammer rushed in for six points. Behrman's kick was good and the Hornets led 7-0.
Saline's defense was up to the task on Lincoln's first drive. Lincoln moved the chains once. But on the next set of downs, Tate Bezeau and Sam Kreuzer made tackles to set up a 3-and-10. The third-down pass was incomplete and Lincoln punted. The Hornets' next drive began at their 31. The moved the ball out to the 50, where Saline faced another 4th-and-1. Again the Hornets went for it. Niethammer carried it for eight yards and the first down. But two plays later, Carr's long pass for Garrett Baldwin was picked off by Caiden Greene at the Lincoln 2.
Lincolns pushed its way out to the 21 on the next drive. Sullivan Mills, Bezeua, Kreuzer and Michael Reder made tackles for Saline. Lincoln punted and it the ball didn't go very far. The Hornets started at the Lincoln 24. Saline suffered a penalty on first down and never recovered. On 4th and 13, Behrman's field goal attempt was wide to the left. With 1:39 to play in the quarter, Saline led 7-0.
On the first play of the second quarter, Bezeau knocked the ball out of the hands of a Lincoln running back. Freshman James Rush picked up the ball and ran untouched into the Lincoln end zone. Saline led 14-0.
Palka said James shows an ability to make plays that belies his age.
"He also made a couple of big tackles on the perimeter. We put him on their best receiver all day. The game is not too big for him right now. It's impressive," Palka said. "Some guys have a way of making plays and right now he's one of those guys, regardless of his age."
Lincoln's next drive made it to its own 42 before it stalled. On 2nd-and-10, Tate Bezeau dropped Lincoln QB Trey Richey for a seven-yard loss.
On third down, Bezeau rushed the passer again. This time he threw it away but was assessed a 10-yard penalty for grounding. On 4th-and-27, Lincoln punted. Cade Tousa returned it 12 yards to the Lincoln 33 - more great field position.
Saline's offense began to hit its stride. Carr and Niethammer connected for an 18-yard gain. Carr then through to Dylan Mesman for 11 yards. A couple of plays later, Carr passed to Caid Fox for a seven-yard touchdown reception. Saline led 21-0 after Behrman's kick.
Saline got the ball right back when Tousa picked up a fumble on the Lincoln kickoff return. Saline took over at the Lincoln 25. On second down, Carr passed to Niethammer for 24-yard TD pass along the Saline sideline. The Hornets led 28-0.
The points were coming fast and furious now. David Cook broke loose for an 87-yard TD on Lincoln's ensuing kickoff return, getting the Railsplitters on the board.
Garrett Baldwin one-upped him with a 95-yard kickoff return TD.
A game Saline led 14-0 only moments ago was now 35-7.
Saline wasn't done yet. Lincoln's next drive ended when Jackson Conely intercepted a pass and returned it to the Saline 45.
Saline moved the ball up the field with Carr completing passes to Baldwin and Fox and picking up 14 more yards on the run. On 2nd-and-10 from the 15, Carr tossed a pass into the corner of the end zone, where Fox caught his second TD pass of the night.
Saline took it's 42-7 lead into the locker room. When play resumed in the third quarter, the 35-point lead meant clock was stopping for few reasons. There were no points scored in the second half.
Perhaps the most remarkable development came in the fourth quarter, when freshman Tommy Carr made his debut. Carr, the younger brother of CJ, has been the JV quarterback. With Laurio out of the game with an injury, Tommy was pressed into action in the fourth quarter.
Carr completed his first pass attempt.
He finished the night 2-for-2 for 28 yards. The Hornets pushed the ball into the Lincoln red zone thanks to Carr and running back Jonah Strok.
Palka was happy with the debut of someone who looks to be the starting quarterback when CJ graduates and goes to Notre Dame.
"Tommy had that headlights look when he went out. But he threw that first ball and was right on the money. I think he had a great series," Palka said. "Honestly, we kind of pulled back a little bit at the end or I would have let him do a little bit more in that series and maybe we score."
Expect to see more from Tommy Carr this year at the varsity level.
"With JV games being on Saturday now Tommy really becomes that second guy for us. It was really good to see him have the game that he did," Palka said.
It was just one of those games where young Hornets continued to rise to the occasion. Caid Fox proved he was an end zone threat. James Rush made big plays. Tommy Carr looked poised behind center.
This Saline Hornets team is doing everything it can to prove the future is now - or at least this post-season. But it's hard not to see the promise of future Hornet teams, too.
"I stand on the sideline and when they introduce the starters, I heard junior, sophomore, junior, sophomore. We are really young, so to be able to have the success that we're having right now is a bonus," Palka said. "They are a young team that's only going to get better over the next couple years."
Saline 42 Lincoln 7
Monroe 42 Skyline 7
Huron 57 Pioneer 0
Dexter 27 Bedford 6
Saline @ Monroe
Bedford @ Huron
Lincoln @ Dexter
Pioneer @ Skyline
|0" href="https://stats.digitalscout.com/player/15334925/football/14847297" title="Go to this player's profile" target="_blank">#3 Riley Behrman||0||1||6||6|
|0" title="Go to this player's profile" target="_blank">#38 Noah Barnett||1||37||37||0|
PUNT RETURN STATS
|0" href="https://stats.digitalscout.com/player/15334909/football/14847297" title="Go to this player's profile" target="_blank">#2 Cade Tousa||1||12||12||0|
KICK RETURN STATS
|Penalties - Yards||3 - 25||6 - 40|