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Prep Football: Salisbury 28, Lexington 25

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
Lexington phenom Chris Bush outrushed Salisbury’s team 328-65, but the Hornets passed their way to a 28-25 victory Monday.
John Knox threw for 258 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Hornets (8-0, 4-0 CCC). Salisbury got a first-half TD rush from 385-pound Kiontae Rankin, made a last-minute defensive stand and took a giant step toward its sixth straight league title.
“We talked about how firemen don’t leave their partners behind, no matter what,” Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan said. “Tonight, the fire got hotter and hotter, but the hotter it got, the more our guys pulled together.”
It got warm indeed. The Hornets couldn’t run the ball, couldn’t stop Bush and watched Lexington (5-3, 3-1) score three unanswered TDs to claim a 25-14 lead.
When Lexington recovered an onsides kick at the Salisbury 37 late in the third quarter, the Hornets weren’t on the ropes, they were hanging over them.
Instead of allowing Bush to bury the Hornets 7 yards at a time, the Yellow Jackets went for a bold knockout. Quarterback Teland Todd threw deep. Stellar cornerback Martin Hosch-Cathcart looked beaten, but the pass hung up too long. He recovered and intercepted the ball in the end zone. That’s where it turned around.
“I just got a little greedy,” Lexington coach Chris Deal said. “But we put one on ’em there, and they’re probably done.”
Salisbury faced third-and-13 from its 17 moments later, but A.J. Ford took a flip from Knox and fought his way to the first-down marker. Then Knox dumped a little screen to sprinter Romar Morris, and a hurricane wearing No. 8 was blowing for a 70-yard score as the third quarter ended.
“Lexington was really good on defense against the run, so we had to outsmart them,” Knox said. “When Romar got that ball and turned it up, I already knew in my head what it was.
“Touchdown.”
Morris squeezed through a tight crease in the middle of the field and was gone.
“I just had to uptempo the speed, and the great blocks were there,” Morris said. “The momentum shifted.”
Salisbury missed the PAT and trailed 25-20.
Bush, who carried 43 times, started rolling over the Hornets again, melting half the fourth quarter behind his physical offensive line.
Lexington had second-and-5 at the Salisbury 13, but it was pushed back by an errant shotgun snap on second down and a great effort by Salisbury linebacker O’Bryan Graham, who spilled Bush for a 3-yard loss on third down.
“Bush gave us a hard time all night,” Graham said. “There at the end, we knew we had to stop him.”
Todd scrambled on fourth down, but he was tackled short of the first down.
The Hornets grabbed the lead ó their first since they were ahead 14-13 at halftime ó on the next snap.
It was another screen, this time to Ford, a big-play machine who got terrific blocks from Morris and Dario Hamilton. Ford bolted 88 yards down the left sideline.
“We were selling out to stop the run, and they hurt us with the pass,” Deal said. “Their passing game was a little better than we thought.”
Knox passed to Graham for a two-point conversion. Salisbury led 28-25, but Lexington still had six minutes to make its own comeback.
There was no shortage of drama on the final drive, which began at the Yellow Jackets’ 20 with 6:10 left. Salisbury’s defense was exhausted by a combination of long Lexington possessions and quick strikes by the Hornets’ offense that permitted no rest.
The equalizer was Bush, who had given a courageous effort. He also was exhausted and cramping.
“Everyone was worn out,” Salisbury defender Linares Pagan said. “Bush is fast, and he’d just worn us out, but we knew we had to come together and stop them one time.”
Lexington had first-and-10 at the Salisbury 12 with two minutes left. Tory Turner halted Bush for a short gain to the 10. Then Pagan burst through to stop the weary back for no gain.
Ford and Hosch-Cathcart stopped a third-down pass. On fourth-and-8 from the 10, Todd cleverly slipped the ball to Bush on a draw, but Ike Whitaker wasn’t fooled.
“I kind of redirected the play,” Whitaker said. “Then Tory (Turner) was there, and together we made the hit.”
Two guys who weren’t going to leave a partner behind.

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