FOOTBALL: Highlights and Interviews from Saline's 35-21 Defeat of Huron
Saline opened the SEC Red schedule with a 35-21 victory over a talented and athletic Huron team.
Saline football head coach Joe Palka gave a rousing post-game speech to his team. The Hornets lost senior star QB Larry Robinson earlier in the week to a knee injury and he'll miss the entire season. They were already without senior RB Josh Rush. Then, late in the second quarter they, lost senior receiver Caden Winston.
"The team could have folded. They knew Caden wasn't coming back in the second half. They knew what happened to Larry on Wednesday. But they never did. They just found a way. It was one of the most impressive team wins I've ever seen," Palka said.
Here's how the game unfolded.
With RB Josh Rush and QB/RB Larry Robinson out with injuries, Saline needed to boost its running game. Coach Joe Palka said Ryan Niethammer had a great week of downhill running in practice. And it showed early in the game. Niethammer put the Hornets on the scoreboard.
Huron marched all the way down the field and seemed poised to tie the game when Blake Wilson picked off a pass in the end zone to end the threat. Wilson also returned the ball out past the 30.
Saline's drive didn't get very far, though, and the Hornet punt didn't get a friendly bounce. Huron took over at the Saline 49 and went the distance to score, converting a 4th and goal with a pass, and they tied the game at 7.
The Hornets bounced back for a long drive that finished with Niethammer and the O-Line pushing their way past the goal line. Saline led 14-7 after Riley Behrman's kick.
Behrman went 5-for-5 on the XPAs.
But Huron bounced back and scored late in the half to tie the game at 14.
The second half began with Huron possessing the ball. On third and long, Joe Raupp, with help from Carter Smith, brought the Huron QB down behind scrimmage. Huron punted - and it wasn't a good one. Working with a short field, CJ Carr passed to Roman Laurio for a big gain.
Moments later he attacked the same side. And this time, he threw to the big tight end, Dylan Mesman, who reached out his man to steal the ball and score the touchdown.
Saline led 21-14. But once again, the River Rats battled back and scored. Anthony Pinnace scored on a keeper. The game was tied at 21 with 2:04 to play in the third quarter. Saline got the ball back and quickly moved up the field. And on the first play of the fourth quarter, on 4th and goal from the one, the Hornets fumbled the ball away. Huron took over and got some breathing room, but the Saline defense held the River Rats in check. Ian Gifford tripped up Pinnace behind scrimmage on 3rd-and-long. Huron punted. Carr and the Hornets moved up the field - with a lot of those yards coming on a pass to Gavin Mesman. That set up another Carr-Mesman connection, this time for a seven-yard TD.
Saline led 28-21 with 6:36 to play.
Throughout the night, Behrman had been booting squib kicks to the River Rats and keeping the ball out of the hands of their most dangerous returners. This time, Saline recovered Behrman's kick when it bounced off a River Rat and was picked up by Evan Gerlinger. Saline took over at midfield. The drive looked like it might stall with a little less than three minutes to play and give the dangerous Huron offense enough time to attack. But on fourth and long, CJ Carr lofted a beautiful pass just inside the end zone and Roman Laurio made a spectacular catch. The touchdown sealed the victory with 2:45 to play. Saline led 35-21.
"That throw and catch are among the best I've ever seen," said Saline coach Joe Palka.
Palka was impressed by the performance of his sophomore quarterback, who constantly found a way to get the job done when it mattered most.
"He answers the bell, doesn't he? He holds and makes the right reads and he delivered a lot of those balls over the middle. His fade balls were phenomenal," Palka said. "All those deep balls he throws were in tight coverage but he was so accurate it gave our guys a chance."
Here are our post-game interviews.