FOOTBALL: Saline Wins at Bedford, Clinches a Share of the SEC Crown
Hoping to clinch at least a share of the SEC Red crown, the Hornets visited Bedford High School, whose Kicking Mules beat Saline way back in 2013 - the last time the Hornets lost a game.
Despite weather conditions that should have favored the Mules' triple-option offense, a Homecoming crowd, and a weather delay - the Mules couldn't put an end to the Hornet dominance.
CJ Carr threw three touchdown passes and rushed for a touchdown as the Hornets defeated the Mules, 35-21, to clinch at least a share of their eighth straight conference title.
Saline improved to 6-0 in the SEC Red and 7-0 overall.. Huron, at 4-1 according to the MHSAA, is the only team that can conceivably catch the Hornets in the SEC Red standings. Huron's game at Skyline Friday was postponed according to the MHSAA. Mlive reported Skyline forfeited the game, which would improve Huron's record to 5-1.
Saline hosts Dexter (3-2 in the SEC, 4-2 overall) next week with a chance to claim sole possession of the title. Huron visits Lincoln (2-4 in the SEC, 3-4 overall). Monroe (2-3 in the SEC Red, 3-3 overall) led Dexter 7-0 with Dexter threatening to score when Friday's game was suspended due to the weather.
At Bedford Friday, the Hornets and Mules were in a scoreless tie when lightning flashed through the dark clouds and suspended the game. The game was paused for nearly an hour before the game recommenced with the Hornets possessing the ball. Carr passed to Garrett Baldwin and Gavin Mesman for first downs and Zach Antal handled most of the running duties as a balanced approach pushed the Hornets down the field. Antal capped the drive with a six-yard TD run and Riley Behrman (5-for-5 on PATs) made his kick. Saline led 7-0 with 1:04 to play in the quarter.
Bedford's next drive moved the chains once before the Mules punted from their end of the field. On first down from the Saline 36, Carr threw to Roman Laurio for a first down at midfield. On the next play, Carr threw again to Laurio - this line he lofted one along the Bedford sideline and Laurio made a running and leaping catch despite close coverage from a Bedford defender. A couple of plays later, Carr connected to TE Tate Bezeau on a flat route for a six-yard touchdown reception. It was Bezeau's second touchdown in as many weeks. Saline led 14-0 after Behrman's kick.
Between the weather delay, which had chased 80 percent of a huge crowd away, and the Hornet touchdowns - Saline had sapped all the life out of the football stadium.
Three plays into the next drive, though, Bedford found some life. On 3rd-and-12 from the Bedford 30, Brendan Hammer found Connor Laskey along the sideline. The play went for 69 yards before Baldwin took him down at the one-yard line. Two plays later, Hammer scored on a keeper. Bedford was back in the game.
Saline went three-and-out on its next possession and Carr's punt was downed at the Saline 49. The Mules moved the chains once and then, on 3rd-and-7, Randy Boiselle ran a counter that sliced through the Saline defense and went 34 yards for the touchdown. Degan Garcia's kick tied the game at 14.
While the Mules and managed to pick themselves up, the Hornets were unfazed. On 3rd-and-7, Carr threw to Caden Winston, who made the first down catch, then turned and burned his way down the field for a 77-yard touchdown play.
Saline took the 21-14 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, the teams exchanged uneventful possessions. On Saline's second possession of the quarter, the Hornets doubled their lead with an 80-yard drive. A roughing-the-passer penalty moved Saline out to midfield. Passes to Winston and Laurio and runs by Antal and Ryan Niethammer (who returned from injury) moved the Hornets deep into Bedford territory. On 2nd-and-goal from the three, CJ Carr dropped back to pass, found nobody open and then ran for the goal line - stretching over the line as the Mules tried to hold him back.
Saline led 28-14 after Behrman's kick with 5:49 to play in the third.
Bedford wasn't quite done though. The Mules pushed the ball over midfield and then all the way down to the 17, where they had a 4th-and-2.
Down by 14, the Mules went for it and the Saline defense brought down the runner behind scrimmage for a loss. Sullivan Mills got tripped up the runner and then Baldwin helped bring him down.
If that wasn't enough to knock the Mules, Carr and Laurio delivered the knockout punch moments later. On 1st-and-10 from the Saline 31, Carr lofted a long pass down the Bedford sideline. The pass was placed just out of the reach of the leaping Bedford defender. Laurio made the catch and then turned on the jets to score for a 69-yard TD reception.
Saline led 35-14 after Behrman's kick.
Bedford added a late touchdown on a passing play.
The Hornets host Dexter next week.