September 3, 2009

Tigers Top Salisbury 15-12 in Football Season Opener

After locking horns for 48 minutes in last season's football debut without a single point, the Scotland County vs. Salisbury contest opened in a much different fashion in 2009 as the two teams kicked off the season in Memphis.

The Panthers took the opening kick off but had the ball for just two plays before Sabe Sears scooped up a Salisbury fumble and returned it to the 29 yard line.

The Tigers rushing attack got off to a strong start in 2009. Kyle Shelley moved the chains with a seven-yard run and Sabe followed it up with a 14-yard run that gave SCR-I the ball first and goal inside the 10. The Panthers pushed the Tigers back on the first two attempts, before Shelley got the ball to the two-yard line.

Sabe Sears punched the ball in from there on fourth down, putting SCR-I on the score board with 8:20 left to play in the first period. The PAT kick by Harley Stone was no good leaving the score at 6-0.

The Tigers defense held Salisbury to a three and out on the next possession, but SCR-I couldn't move the chains either and was forced to punt the ball back to the Panthers.

The second turnover of the contest helped SCR-I add to its lead. Shelley picked off a Salisbury pass attempt at the 28 yard line with 3:37 left in the opening frame.

Sears connected with Brandon Garnett on a 16-yard pass play. But penalties backed up the Tigers and ultimately forced a 28-yard field goal attempt for Stone. The sophomore booted the kick down the middle of the up rights for a 9-0 SCR-I lead with 1:07 on the clock.

After another three and out series by the Salisbury offense, Scotland County's offense went back to work.

Sears connected with Shelley on a pair of pass plays to move the Tigers down field. Salisbury was flagged for a late hit out of bounds on the second completion, tacking on 15-yards to the end of the play. That set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Sears to Stone with 7:49 remaining in the second period. The PAT kick was no good, leaving the lead at 15-0.

Salisbury picked up its lone first down of the first half courtesy of a holding penalty during a punt. But the Tigers defense rebounded with Logan Brassfield making a key sack to stop the drive and force a punt.

After an SCR-I punt, the Tigers got the ball right back when Brassfield picked off the Kale McCubbins pass with 1:31left in the first half letting the Tigers run out the clock on a 15-0 lead at the intermission.

Salisbury came out of the locker room a different team in the second half. The Panthers stuffed SCR-I's opening possession. The visitors marched down the field behind the rushing of Matt Koenig.

But the Tigers defense held, and Salisbury turned the ball over on downs at the 35-yard line.

SCR-I gave the ball right back as Jonathon Roling picked off a Sabe Sears pass at the 45-yard line.

Koenig nearly got Salisbury on the board as he broke a 39-yard run but Brock Bondurant made a touchdown saving tackle at the six-yard line. That only prolonged the drive, as Salisbury punched the ball in on fourth down as McCubbins scored from three yards out.

The defense came up big though as Shelley and Justin Winn were able to block the PAT kick to keep it a two-possession game with a lead of 15-6 with 2:43 to go in the third period.

Sabe Sears gave the Tigers good field position with a 19-yard kick return to the 40. Rod Sears got the ground game back on track as he moved the chains with a pair of first down runs. But the drive finally stalled inside the 20 and SCR-I turned the ball over on downs.

The Tigers defense kept the pressure on McCubbins in the second half. Tyler Eggers and Andy Garrett recorded quarterback sacks for SCR-I as time started running out for Salisbury.

The Tigers gave their guests second life with just under four minutes to play. Salisbury was pinned deep in their own territory but escaped courtesy of a costly roughing the passer flag on the Tigers.

McCubbins then eluded a sack and was able to scramble for a 22-yard gain as the SCR-I defense began to show the wear of being on the field much of the second half.

But Sabe Sears prevented a touchdown as he and Garnett tipped up a McCubbins pass that Sears ultimately plucked out of the air with 2:40 left in the game for the Tigers' third interception of the contest.

Shelley broke a 15-yard run to move the chains and start the Tigers faithful packing up for a happy ride home. That trip hit a bump in the road when the Tigers coughed up the ball on the next play. Koenig scooped up the fumble and returned it 21-yards for the score. The Tigers stopped the two point conversion with 33.7 seconds left to keep the lead at 15-12.

Shelley recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt and SCR-I ran out the clock on the win.

"It definitely was a tale of two halves," said Coach Brent Bondurant. "We got off to a great start and pretty much dominated the first half, but then Salisbury came back and made it a game. The field goal and the blocked kick were two key plays for us."

The Tigers limited Salisbury to one first down in the opening 24 minutes and just 33 yards of total offense while forcing three turnovers. The Panthers finished with nine first downs. Koenig had 85 yards on 18 attempts. McCubbins completed four of 10 passes for 43 yards and was picked off three times. The Panthers were flagged nine times racking up 90 yards in penalties.

Shelley led the defense with 14 tackles and an interception. Bondurant made 10 stops. Brassfield had eight tackles a sack and an INT while Sabe Sears made seven stops and had a fumble recovery and an interception.

Scotland County picked up 10 first downs on the night. Shelley had 75 yards on 12 attempts. Rod Sears carried the ball 15 times for 18 yards. Sabe Sears was a perfect 7-7 to start the game and finished 9-11 for 75 yards and a TD. Garnett had three receptions for 31 yards. Shelley caught four passes for 35 yards and Stone had the one TD grab.

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