With the sounds of roaring motors filtering through the air from nearby Scotland County Speedway, the Tigers’ football team put its pedal to the metal Friday night in Memphis, scoring 35 straight points to blow open a two-point game to take the checkered flag on a 49-18 victory over Knox County in the opening round of the Class 1 District 5 playoffs.
Ryan Slaughter was off to the races on the game’s very first play as he nearly broke the opening kickoff return for a touchdown.
But the Tigers’ engines stalled, as the SCR-I offense was unable to pick up a first down, turning the ball over on downs at the 30-yard line.
The Tigers got the ball right back when Jaydan Payne pounced on a Knox County fumble on third down at the 35-yard line.
Ian See got his first career start at tailback for the injured Austin Day, and the former receiver, looked the part. He picked up SCR-I’s initial first down a with a 10-yard run. Aaron Buford then connected with Slaughter on a 13-yard pass play before the receiver was forced out of bounds at the one yard line. The senior quarterback did the rest, scoring on a one-yard plunge. Gage Dodge booted the PAT kick through the uprights for a 7-0 SCR-I lead with 8:27 left in the first period.
Knox County went backwards on its next possession with a holding penalty followed by a sack by Grant McRobert and Cameron Stone that ultimately led to a Eagles’ punt.
But a big stop on fourth down turned the momentum back to Knox County, which took advantage of the excellent field position to mount a 4-yard scoring drive.
The Eagles used a fourth-down conversion of its own to keep the drive alive before Noah Tolton scored on a 23-yard TD run. But Aaron Blessing and Bryson Orton denied Tolton on the two-point try to keep SCR-I on top 7-6 with 11:53 left in the second period.
Payne covered an onside kick attempt at midfield and SCR-I went to work with See breaking a 36-yard run. The senior gave SCR-I the ball first and goal at the two with another 10-yard run. The scoring opportunity nearly slipped away as SCR-I fumbled, but Mason Kliethermes was able to recover the loose ball. After a penalty backed up SCR-I, Buford scrambled for a nine yard TD run to push the lead to 14-6 with 9:39 left in the second period.
Kicker Will Fromm made a touchdown-saving tackle on a long return by Tolton. Knox looked poised to score anyway as a pair of long runs by Hunter Klocke left Knox with the ball first and goal from the one-yard line. But the Tigers’ defense turned the Eagles away on four straight tries. Buford and Stephen Terrill combine to tackled Hayden Miller for a loss on fourth down to end the scoring threat.
But after an SCR-I punt, Knox County did find the endzone as Lane Couch scored on a 34-yard reverse. SCR-I again denied the two-point conversion as Slaughter dropped Klocke short of the goal line to preserve a 14-12 SCR-I lead with 3:57 left in the first half.
SCR-I answered right back as Buford hit Slaughter with a 44-yard bomb that quickly had the Tigers back in scoring position. Buford and See did the rest of the work, each moving the chains with good runs before the quarterback capped off the drive with a one-yard run. Dodge made it 21-12 with the PAT kick 45 seconds left on the clock.
Terrill and McRobert ended any thoughts of a last-second Knox County drive with another sack to close out the first half.
Knox County took the opening kick of the second half, but was unable to take advantage of good field position as Miller was sacked by Blessing and Stone on a fourth down pass play.
That gave SCR-I good field position, which got even better after runs by See and Buford. Slaughter then broke a 17-yard TD run with 7:14 left in the third period to push the lead to 28-12.
After Knox County went three and out and gave SCR-I good field position with a very short punt, the Tigers found the end zone again as See scored on a four-yard run to cap off a 34-yard drive. Gage made his fifth straight PAT kick to make the score 35-12 with 5:28 left in the third period.
SCR-I again got the ball back in good field position after Slaughter broke up a fourth down pass play by Knox County.
The Tigers put together a seven-play, 35-yard scoring drive capped off by a 19-yard TD pass from Buford to Brett Monroe making the score 42-12 with nine seconds left in the third period.
The SCR-I defense continued its strong second half. Payne and Chase Cook combined to sack Miller on and force a Knox County punt.
Slaughter then electrified the SCR-I crowd with an amazing kick return. The senior fielded a low kick on a bounce at the 36-yard line. He started up field toward the Knox County sideline, but near midfield he spotted an opening to the right and reversed field, making a tackler miss. Tolton fought through a stiff arm to get Slaughter wrapped up around the shoulder pads. He spun him around to throw him to the ground, but somehow Slaughter remained upright following the 360 turn, placing a hand down to keep his balance before quickly spurting up the SCR-I sideline as a trio of Knox County defenders watched in disbelief. He turned on the jets to gain another 20 yards before jamming on the breaks once again, avoiding two more tacklers before finally being brought down from behind at the 22-yard line after a 42-yard return.
See followed with a 13-yard run before Payne scored on a nine-yard run with 9:30 left in the fourth period. Dodge made it 7-7 on extra point kicks and SCR-I led 49-12.
Knox County managed 74 of its 226 yards of total offense on a fourth period drive as SCR-I subbed in defenders. Hayden Miller connected with Garyn Miller on a 10-yard TD pass to cap off the drive.
Jace Morrow gave SCR-I fans one final thrill as he took over at tailback in the final minutes and broke a 35 yard run before time ran out on the 49-18 victory.
Scotland County managed 354 yards of total offense led by See who ran for 116 yards and a TD on 16 rushes. Buford ran the ball 14 times for 73 yards and three scores. He also was 5-7 passing for 83 yards and a TD. Slaughter had 34 yards rushing and a TD on six carries and also caught two passes for 57 yards. Payne ran the ball three times for 16 yards and a score and Morrow finished with 45 yards on three carries.
Miller completed five of 11 passes for Knox County for 33 yards and a TD. He ran the ball 15 times for 51 yards. Tolton was held to 57 yards and a TD on 11 rushes while Klocke had 93 yards on 14 attempts.
Slaughter and Buford each made 10 tackles to lead the SCR-I defense. Blessing and Mason Kliethermes had nine stops each while the SCR-I defense combined for four sacks.
SCR-I, the district tourney’s #4 seed, will now advance to play the top seed, Mark Twain, which downed Louisiana 67-0 in its opener. The game will be played Friday, October 28th at Mark Twain High School in Center.