FOOTBALL: CJ Carr Throws 5 TD Passes as Undefeated Saline Downs Pioneer, 56-0

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CJ Carr threw 5 touchdown passes as undefeated Saline defeated Pioneer, 56-0.

Saline improved to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the SEC Red. Saline hosts Bedford next Friday before the Hornets wrap up the SEC Red season the next week at Dexter.

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Saline's star junior QB was as good as he's ever been, completing 13-of-14 passes for 251 yards in five touchdown passes - all in the first half. Carr threw touchdown passes to Roman Laurio (4 catches, 71 yards, 2 TD catches), Caid Fox (4 catches, 80 yards, 1 TD - and another called back on a penalty), Garrett Baldwin (1 catch, 50 yards, 1 TD) and Dylan Mesman (2 catches, 22 yards, 1 TD). Ryan Niethammer rushed five times for 53 yards and a touchdown. Nate Walper rushed for a touchdown in the third quarter. Baldwin also scored on an interception return.

The Hornets obviously expected to win - and win by a lot against  a struggling Pioneer team with just a single win this year. But the margin of victory wasn't the focus for a Hornet team focused on improving each week. Saline head coach Joe Palka knew the Hornets were going to have a great game.

"I told the team before the game that you're going to play well because you practiced well. For us, it's about getting better. I really believe that. I know our kids believe that," Palka said. "There are a lot of little intricacies that we can do now that we couldn't do three weeks ago, which is rewarding to see."

On offense, for example, a better offensive line is giving CJ Carr more time to choose the right option.

"We're running routes with great speed. CJ has got the ability to get through the progressions where maybe early in the year we were only hitting the first or second progression. Sometimes, because we're getting the better pass-pro, he's able to make the third progression read," Palka said

Toss in an improved run game and run defense, and things are looking bright.

"All those things add up to a football team getting better," Palka said.

It was the second shutout in three weeks for the Hornets.

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"We continue to pick up turnovers and get takeaways on defense. That's something we haven't done that some years on defense. We also want to finish games when our 2s and 3s get in, and we've done that," Palka said.

On offense, CJ Carr continues to look more and more comfortable as a field general.

"He looked very smooth. He slid in the pocket. He made the throws. He's reading the coverages really well," Palka said. "We give him a number of options when the play is called in. He'd pick the right side. He's moving guys with his eyes. He's doing all the right things right now. It's pretty impressive."

THE GAME

Saline kicked off the Pioneer, which started on the wrong foot with two penalties for false start. A couple plays later, the Pioneers punted from the 14 and Saline took over at the 50.

On the first play from scrimmage, CJ Carr passed to Garrett Baldwin for a touchdown.

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Pioneer's second possession moved the chains once - thanks to a penalty on the defense. But the Pioneers only moved the ball about 14 yards before a third-and-6 pass by Kalan Wong was intercepted by Baldwin, who returned it about 40 yards for another touchdown.

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Saline led 14-0 moments into the contest.

Pioneer's third possession went one yard before the Pioneer's punted on 4th down. The punt went about 10 yards. Saline took over at the 28. After a pass to Dylan Mesman for 15 yards, Carr threw to Roman Laurio, who spun out of one tackle, and then lowed his shoulder and pushed his way through two would-be tacklers to cross the goal line.

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Saline led 21-0 with about 4:40 to play in the first quarter.

The Pioneers' next possession started at their 15. A first down run by Sam Bonasso went three yards before Sully Mills brought him down. After two incomplete passes, Wong punted. Saline took over at their own 38. Carr threw passes to Cole Kreuzer and Kyle Barbarino for a couple of first downs. Ryan Niethammer's 18-yard rush - his longest of the day - pushed Saline down to the seven. On second-and-goal, Carr passed to Dylan Mesman in the end zone. 

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Saline led 28-0. 

On the final play of the first quarter, Tate Bezeau dropped Wong for a seven-yard loss on a sack.  Two plays later, in the second quarter, Wong punted.

Saline started at its own 28. A long passing play to Caid Fox for a TD was called back for holding. But it didn't matter, because a couple of plays later, Carr connected with Fox again on a 47-yard touchdown play.

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Saline led 35-0 after Riley Behrman's kick.

The next Pioneer possession started at the Pioneer 47 after a good return by Malek Farha. But again, the Hornet defense wouldn't budget. On 3rd-and-3 from the Saline 46 - one of the few times Pioneer crossed the 50 - Sam Kreuzer dropped Wong for a six-yard loss. The Pioneers went for it on fourth-and-nine, but Sully Mills stopped Bonasso two yards short of the first-down marker and the Hornets took over at their 45.  Carr passed to Laurio for 16 yards. Then James Rush and Niethammer had consecutive nine-yard runs. Carr passed to Fox for a 13-yard gain at the Pioneer 8. Niethammer rushed in for the touchdown.

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Saline led 42-0.

Pioneer's next possession began at its 28. Tackles by Mills and Bezeau forced a 3-and-5. A third-down pass attempt was incomplete and Wong punted to the Saline 41. Carr passed to Fox for a 23-yard pick-up and then Carr threw a long pass to Laurio along the Pioneer sideline for a 36-yard touchdown.

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Saline led 49-0 - a lead the Hornets took into halftime.

With a running clock, the Hornets went to the running game with their second and third-string players. Still, the Hornets weren't done scoring. 

The Hornets first possession of the third quarter resulted in a rushing touchdown by Nate Walper.

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After Ethan Cotsonika's kick, Saline led 56-0.

INTERVIEWS

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AROUND THE SEC RED

STANDINGS

Team SEC Red Overall
Saline 5-0 6-0
Dexter 5-0 6-0
Huron 3-2 3-3
Bedford 3-2 4-2
Monroe 2-3 2-4
Lincoln 1-4 2-4
Pioneer 1-4 1-5
Skyline 0-5 0-6

This week's results

Saline 56 Pioneer 0
Dexter 21 Huron 14
Lincoln 37 Skyline 21
Bedford 28 Monroe 14


Next week's games

Bedford @ Saline
Pioneer @ Lincoln
Skyline @ Huron
Dexter @ Monroe

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