Prep Football Playoffs: Salisbury 42, Cuthbertson 31: Ruffin scores 5 TDs
SALISBURY - Just when it seemed the Salisbury Hornets were in real trouble in their 2AA playoff opener, their defense and a runner named Ruffin came to the rescue.
The Hornets had to rally from behind three times before finally securing a 42-31 win over a Cuthbertson team that was far better than its 6-5 record indicated. Two second half interceptions by Keion Adams and a big fumble recovery by Clint Comadoll gave Salisbury the opportunities. Senior halfback Justin Ruffin took it from there with an impressive 207 yards and five touchdowns to put the Hornets (9-2) into the second round of the 2AA Midwest bracket.
"You just can't say enough about Justin Ruffin," Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said. "He is just unbelievable and I am glad he is on my side."
The outing pushed him to almost 1250 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns for the season.
Like a good neighbor, Ruffin gave the glory to his offensive line.
"Pretty much my offensive line created the holes and I want to thank them." he stated, "We also came out in the second half and just played Salisbury Hornet football."
Despite the lofty final score, the game really started as a defensive struggle. The Cavvaliers from Waxhaw and the Rocky River Conference, took a 3-0 lead on Ryan Kendall's 36 yard field goal midway in the first period. Salisbury stagnated with three punts and a fumble before finally putting together a 61 yard scoring drive late in the second quarter. Ruffin scored from the five and the Hornets took a 7-3 halftime lead.
Salisbury's season seemed in true jeopardy in the third period as the Cavaliers jumped out to a 17-7 lead behind freshman quarterback Austin Kendall. He hit his older brother Ryan for a 36 yard pass to set up a short TD run by Emmitt Afam. Then after Salisbury's second fumble of the third period, the Kendall's hooked up again for a 40 yard scoring pass with 5:00 minutes left in the quarter.
Cuthbertson had 14 quick points while Salisbury managed just one offensive play and two turnovers in the almost 8 minutes of the second half.
"We were fumbing and weren't make plays which were real drive killers," quarterback Brian Bauk noted. But the senior speedster provided the first of many sparks to ignite the Salisbuty offense the rest of the way.
Bauk ran the keeper on the option and broke free for a 77 yard TD sprint that closed the gap to 17-14 less than a minute after the Cavs took their big lead. On the next series linebacker Keion Adams notched the first of his two interceptions setting the stage for a 44 yard burst by Ruffin to make the score 21-17. Cuthbertson rallied to go back in front 24-21 early in the final period on a 17 yard run by Devin Johnson.
From that point, however, Ruffin's offensive prowess and the Hornet's takeaway defense put this one away. Ruffin scored on runs of 59 yards, 17 yards and 40 yards over the next 6 minutes to widen the margin. The Cavs did add another Kendall TD pass to Ryan Torsza with just over two minutes left but Salsibury was able to run out the clock from there.
"Unfortunately we have been on the wrong side of too many of these games," Cavalier coach Mike Roarke said. " Our defense played fantastic in the first half but we couldn't hold on to the ball when we needed to sustain a drive in the second half."
The Hornets get to stay at home for the second round of the play-offs and will face a familiar conference foe, Central Davidson next Friday.
Ruffin feels his team has the determination to keep rolling in the playoffs. "Coach told us our defense will lead us where we need to go and the offense will follow," he said. "Our defense led us to a win tonight."
Of course his five touchdowns helped a little. Bauk notched 148 yards for the game, putting him over 1000 yards rushing for the season.