September 6, 2007

Big Plays Let Football Season Opener Slip Away From Tigers

The final score read Salisbury 28, Scotland County 6, but just about everyone at Tiger Stadium on Friday night realized it could have been a much different story as the 2007 high school football season got underway.

The Panthers struck first, but only after catching some early breaks. Salisbury took the opening kickoff but the Tigers defense appeared to have them stopped on the teams first series. But a questionable spot of the ball following the third down play left the Panthers on fourth down with just inches to go. Instead of punting, Salisbury went for it, and was successful in moving the chains.

That key play kept the drive alive and ultimately resulted in a 34-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Snodgrass to Harrison Mahnken. The point after attempt was good as kicker Corey Jolliffe split the uprights to make it 7-0 with 6:49 to play in the first period.

Scotland County looked poised to answer the tally. The Tigers moved the ball down field behind good runs from Kegan Hunt and quarterback Kyle Shelley. But ultimately the drive stalled and SCR-I turned the ball over on downs with 3:38 remaining in the first quarter.

The Scotland County defense held on the next series as Justin Winn came up with a huge stop on fourth down and one.

Scotland County picked up its third and final first down of the first half when Shelley connected with Caleb Kittle on a 28-yard pass play. The drive ended at midfield with a punt with 8:53 left to play in the second quarter.

The two teams traded punts to eat up much of the remaining clock. But Salisbury pinned the Tigers deep in their own territory and managed the clock well enough to get one final shot at the end zone.

With 13.6 seconds left in the first half, Jolliffe took a screen pass, avoided a pair of tacklers in the backfield before reversing his course, cutting across the field and rumbling for the 59-yard touchdown. He added the PAT kick to make 14-0 at the break.

The Tigers looked like a different team to open the third period. The motivated SCR-I squad used a good kick return by freshman Caleb Hunt to get the crowd back into the game.

Jeff Kice moved the chains with three consecutive power runs before Eric Glass picked up some big yardage on a counter run that set up first and goal for the Tigers.

Salisbury stopped the first three attempts before Glass plunged in from two yards out on fourth down. The Panthers were able to block the extra point kick to keep the score at 14-6 with 8:07 left in the third period.

SCR-I kept the momentum on defense. Kittle picked off a pass from Snodgrass and returned it down the sideline to the 42-yard line.

The Panthers answered the challenge, stuffing Scotland County on three straight plays to force a punt. The ensuing drive closed out the third period and a portion of the fourth quarter before Snodgrass scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 9:50 left to play in the game. Jolliffe made the PAT to put the guests on top 21-6.

After the Tigers again went three and out on offense, the Panthers caught a couple more breaks to help seal the victory. After the Scotland County defense appeared to hold, the Panthers muffed the snap on a punt attempt and the kicker turned into a scrambler, avoiding the Tiger defenders long enough to pick up a first down.

Salisbury then converted on another fourth down and long situation to set up an eight-yard touchdown run by Brandon Hurt. Jolliffe nailed the point after kick to make it 28-6 with 3:45 left on the clock and put the game out of reach.

The Tigers struggled on offense, making just eight first downs while the Panthers held them to 142 total yards. Shelley ran the ball seven times for 33 yards to lead the rushing attack. Glass had five attempts for 18 yards while Kice ran it 10 times for 20 yards. Hunt finished with 19 yards on two attempts.

Shelley completed eight of 16 passes for 52 yards. The big play was the 28 yarder to Kittle. Kice caught three passes and Glass added two receptions while Ben Wiley and Brandon Garnett each had one grab.

Salisbury racked up 19 first downs behind 221 yards of rushing. Hurt had 101 yards on 20 carries and Jolliffe added 72 yards on 13 attempts. Snodgrass completed seven of 17 passes for 165 yards and two TDs. Mahnken made five receptions for 121 yards to lead the receiving corps.

Freshman Logan Brassfield led the Tigers defense from his linebacking spot. He accounted for 14 tackles on the night Shelley made 10 stops while Bradley Hamner, Craig Wittstock and Glass each were in on seven tackles.

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