Salisbury forces six turnovers, rolls past Raiders, 40-15
Salisbury tops South Rowan, 40-15
By David Shaw
LANDIS — Salisbury’s defense must have had the “take sign” Friday night.
The short-handed Hornets forced six turnovers and passed an important Central Carolina Conference road test, winning, 40-15, at South Rowan.
“It’s actually a relief,” coach Brian Hinson said, after Salisbury (6-4, 6-2) positioned itself to finish third in the league standings. “We’ve had some injuries and some kids playing positions they’re not really used to. We’ve had to rotate some people around, but luckily, our defense played well and we put some points on the board.”
The Hornets, who gained 367 yards on the ground, close their regular season next Friday at home against Oak Grove. Quarterback/running back Mike McLean led the charge with 189 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The sophomore made end zone appearances in each of the first three quarters.
“Our O-line did a great job tonight, so I needed to see the end zone,” McLean said. “I hit every hole like it was my last time running the ball.”
South Rowan (3-8, 3-6) finished its year with three losses in its last four games — and went 3-8 for the second straight fall.
“Obviously, the wins and losses wasn’t what we wanted,” South coach Daniel Yow said. “But it was fun coaching these kids this year. They practiced hard every day and listened to stuff. But at the end of the night, and the end of the season, we’re not where we want to be.”
Yow was encouraged by quarterback Drew Huffman, a junior with water-bug mobility who appeared comfortable in South’s option attack. He passed for 92 yards and a TD, and scrambled for 34 in the Raiders’ season-finale.
“Their quarterback was pretty good,” said Salisbury linebacker Jaden Hiligh. “But he didn’t want to pitch the ball. He’d rather take off running it. Our job was to keeping going after him, hitting him and making him pitch it.”
Hiligh sparked a defense that confiscated four fumbles, intercepted Huffman twice and limited the hosts to 212 total yards. The junior recovered loose balls in the second and third quarters while teammates Donavan Corpening and Jadarius Wood each contributed a fumble recovery and an interception.
“Jadarius, pound-for-pound, is one of the toughest kids around,” Hinson said. “And he’s a heck of a football player. I mean, you play outside linebacker at 150 pounds and you’re really good at it, you’re a pretty tough kid.”
South was introduced to Wood on the game’s fifth play from scrimmage. On third-and-short from the Salisbury 49-yard line, Huffman misfired on a short sideline pass that Wood picked off and returned down the right sideline for a touchdown just 68 seconds into the match.
“(Wood) dropped back just like he’s supposed to,” said Salisbury’s Blaine Shellhorn. “He stayed right in the flats. I put pressure on from the other side and forced the play his way. He was just waiting for the pass.”
“It was good coverage,” Hiligh added. “He read it, he saw it and he got to the end zone.”
Salisbury’s lead bulged to 14-0 before the game was five-minutes old. McLean scampered 36 yards on first down and scored on a 2-yard burst with 7:13 remaining in the opening quarter.
“It was a wet field,” noted South defensive back Scott Stephens, a four-year letterman. “You had to break down and try to keep your balance. But (McLean) was really shifty and quick on his feet. He made it tough.”
McLean’s longest run came on a 38-yard romp to the left side that put Salisbury ahead 20-7 early in the second period. His third TD — and 11th of the season — came on a 7-yard walk-in and produced a 34-7 third-quarter edge.
“On a lot of our power plays, their defensive line would stand up,” McLean said. “I took advantage of that and ran past them downhill.”
South’s two touchdowns came on Huffman’s 39-yard pass to Jarron Hines late in the opening period and on Michael Sloop’s 23-yard run in the waning moments. Wood capped a seven-play, 57-yard scoring drive with a 10-yard dash into the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
“We’re not a team that can play from behind,” Yow said. “When they scored on that pick-six on our first possession — I’m not saying that play determined the outcome of the game, but it was a big momentum thing in their favor. We were playing catch-up from there on.”
And Salisbury was playing catch-us-if-you-can.
“Our goal is to try to get a home playoff game,” Hinson said. “We’ve been talking about it since the middle of the year. Now it’s within our grasp if we go out and play well. We’ve got to be ready next week.”
NOTES: Salisbury’s defense limited South to 120 yards on the ground and 92 in the air. … McLean started the game under center, but switched to running back when junior Jaiwon Poole suffered an ankle injury late in the first quarter. … Sloop and Emilio Bernal recovered fumbles for the Raiders. Teammate Cory Hartsell intercepted a pass. … Ten different players ran the ball for SHS.