It took the Scotland County football team a quarter to shake the rust off, but once the Tigers got rolling there was no stopping them in the 2015 debut. SCR-I racked up 39 unanswered points in the second and third quarters Friday night in Memphis en route to a 39-14 win over Salisbury in the coaching debut for Mikel Gragg.
“We got contributions from a lot of different players, so there are smiles all around heading into the locker room,” he said. “It is definitely nice to start off on the right foot.”
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and picked up a first down before Lane Mohr made a key stop. That set up an interception by Aaron Buford to end the opening drive.
SCR-I started slow on offense, managing just one first down in the first two possessions of the night, both ending in punts.
Jade Holt had a quarterback sack to help stop Salisbury’s second possession before the SCR-I defense came up big to start the second quarter, ending a scoring threat at the 10 yard line when the panthers turned the ball over on downs.
The Tigers coaching staff made some adjustments on offense and chose to go to the air. The team battled through some early drops by the receivers, as quarterback Aaron Buford was 0-5 passing to start the game. Holt kept the third possession of the game alive for the offense when he fielded a low snap for a punt attempt and scrambled for 12 yards to pick up a first down. That set up a 46-yard touchdown pass from Buford to freshman Will Fromm. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the score at 6-0 with 7:20 left in the first half.
The two teams traded punts, with Scotland County getting the ball back with 1:53 left in the first half. A 23-yard punt return by Gage Dodge brought the ball all the way to the 34-yard line. Two plays later, Buford hit a wide-open Holt over the middle for a 34-yard TD pass. The junior quarterback then connected with Ryan Slaughter for the two-point conversion to extend the lead to 14-0 with 1:11 left on the clock.
But the Tigers weren’t finished. Will Pickerell sacked the Salisbury quarterback Spencer Bloss and forced a fumble that was recovered by Mohr with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half.
Buford connected on a 30-yard pass to Holt down the sideline where he was forced out of bounds at the 25 yard line with just half a second remaining on the clock. That proved to be just enough time for SCR-I, as Ryan Slaughter took a reverse hand off and weaved through the Panther’s defense for the TD. The PAT kick was no good, leaving the halftime score at 20-0.
The Tigers kept the pedal to the medal to start the second half. Buford hit Holt for a 74-yard TD pass on the first play of the third quarter to push the lead to 26-0 with 11:41 on the clock.
After Salisbury went three and out with a punt, Fromm took over the Tigers offense with Buford sidelined with leg cramps.
Austin Day made the freshman signal caller’s varsity debut start smoothly. The junior tailback broke a pair of first down runs. Fromm then hit Riley Kliethermes with a screen play. Kliethermes broke a pair of tackles and scampered down the sideline before being forced out of bounds with a 49-gain. That set up a six-yard TD pass from Fromm to Ian See. Holt made the PAT kick to extend the lead to 33-0 with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
The defense continued a dominating performance for Scotland County. Chester Robinson made a huge hit on kickoff coverage that set the tone. Riley Kliethermes forced a fumble on Salisbury’s next play and Slaughter pounced on the third Panther turnover of the night.
Fromm quickly connected with Slaughter on a bubble screen and the junior back did the rest, shredding the Salisbury defense for a 35-yard TD that forced a running clock with SCR-I up 39-0 with 5:05 still left to play in the third period.
Salisbury finally broke through against the junior varsity defense to get on the board with a three-yard touchdown run by Cole Fuemmeler. Bloss made the PAT kick to make the score 39-7 with 7:13 left in the fourth period. The Panthers tacked on another score in the final seconds as Dustin Drew hit Bloss with a three-yard TD pass to make the final score 39-14.
Scotland County racked up 410 yards of total offense while holding Salisbury to 217 yards. Buford went 4-10 passing for 184 yards and three TDs. Fromm was 5-5 for 124 yards and two scores. Holt had four receptions for 140 yards and two TDs. Kliethermes had one grab for 49 yards. Fromm caught a 46 yard TD and Slaughter had a 35 yard scoring catch. See added the other TD grab while Jace Morrow had the other reception, a 32 yard gain.
Day was held to 28 yards rushing one nine carries. Holt had 37 yards rushing while Buford carried the ball seven times for 28 yards.
Aaron Blessing led the Tigers defense with nine tackles on the night. Day finished with eight stops while Pickerell had seven stops and a sack.
Scotland County will travel to Edina on Friday night to kick off Tri-Rivers Conference play. Knox County (0-10) loss their opener to Marceline 48-6.