Saluda High School and Newberry High both had tragedies to strike their families during the month of September.
After Saluda’s 44-0 homecoming win over Branchville on the 14th, band member Joye Andrews was killed in an automobile accident.
Newberry High graduate and former football player Nick Gallman was killed in an automobile accident a few hours after their 35-28 homecoming loss to Union County on September 21.
A moment of silence was held for Andrews and Gallman before the national anthem at this past Friday night’s game in Newberry.
Gallman’s number one jersey was carried out to mid-field by captains Tovaris Cureton and Cohanskie Goodson for the toss of the coin.
After Newberry’s 23-7 victory, the Saluda band performed leaving Andrews’ normal spot in the lineup open.
Also after the game, Gallman’s jersey was presented to his family by the Newberry team.
For the third time this season, Newberry lost the coin toss as Saluda elected to receive the second half opening kickoff.
Clinton and Ware Shoals also elected to kickoff to the Bulldogs after winning the coin toss.
Both teams traded punts twice to start the ballgame.
A false start penalty on Newberry’s third offensive possession moved them back to their 37 with 1:06 left in the first quarter.
Quarterback Khalil Sheppard threw a pass to Jalin Alexander as he never broke stride on this 63-yard touchdown play for the first score of the game.
Jose Lozano’s PAT was no good as this touchdown marked the sixth time in as many games this season that the Bulldogs were the first team to score on the evening.
Saluda started at its 28 as the Tigers worked their way across mid-field in three plays and then down to the Newberry three in four rushing plays and one 12-yard pass reception.
On a 4th-and-one from the three, Maurice Howard scored the touchdown as Saluda had its only lead of the game after Aldo Pineda’s PAT with 8:28 left before the half.
Sheppard was sacked for five yards before the Bulldogs got these yards back one play later with an offsides infraction against the Tigers.
On a second down at his 21, Sheppard threw a 46-yard pass to Alexander placing the football at the Saluda 33.
Getting down to the Saluda 15 and facing a fourth down, Lozano was sent out as he was perfect on a 33-yard field goal with 5:10 left before the half as the Bulldogs obtained the lead for good at 9-7.
Taking possession with 51.1 seconds after a Saluda punt, Newberry had just 40 yards in front of them and a time-out to their credit.
Saluda was charged a play later with pass interference which put Newberry at the 25.
In the shotgun formation, Sheppard fumbled the snap but was unable to grab hold to it as the free ball was recovered by Saluda.
Even though they had three time-outs to their credit and 51 yards in front of them, the Tigers ran two plays, covering four yards, before heading to the locker rooms.
Saluda had 95 yards of total first half offense while Newberry had 148, including 122 through the air.
“We had a lot of trouble moving those big tree trunks they have up front,” said Newberry head coach Phil Strickland of their first half play.
For the fourth straight week, Newberry’s opponent failed to score on its opening possession of the second half as Saluda punted from its 41 with 9:11 left in the third stanza.
Keeping the ball for nearly six minutes, the Bulldogs only went to the air one time, which covered five yards, as they finished their eleven play drive with a 17-yard run by Tyon Williams before Lozano converted the PAT.
The biggest play on this drive, however, occurred when Newberry was successful on a fake punt with T.J. Boulware carrying the direct snap seven yards on a 4th-and-two at the 5:47 mark.
Trailing by two possessions at this point, 16-7, Saluda was forced to punt from its 23 with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
The shanked punt traveled 13 yards.
On the first play of this drive, Sheppard threw what seemed to be a beautiful and perfectly caught 32-yard pass to Alexander down to the Saluda four.
A yellow flag disagreed as the pass interference penalty moved the ball back 15 yards from the line of possession, or 47 yards back had the infraction not been called.
A fumble and two Newberry penalties wreaked havoc on Newberry for the duration of this possession as they punted to Saluda on the next-to-last play of the fourth quarter.
Still trailing by nine, Saluda thought it was getting some momentum on the second play of the final stanza when they completed a 36-yard pass play to the Newberry 37.
A holding penalty was called on the play as Saluda was now 88 yards from the end zone.
The Tigers punted two plays later.
Once again only going to the air one time on a possession, Newberry ran over five minutes off the clock before Sheppard scored on a 15 yard keeper for the touchdown and the 23-7 score after Lozano’s PAT with 5:36 left in the contest.
The last time Newberry held Saluda to seven points or less was the 2007 game.
This marked the first time since the 2009 meeting that more than seven points divided the two teams.
Newberry won the first down category 11 to eight.
Saluda had 129 yards of total offense including 106 through the air.
Newberry accumulated 297 yards of offense, with 157 of them coming on the ground.
Williams had 77 yards on 15 carries as he is now 54 yards shy of having rushed for 1000 yards for the 2012 season.
“Tyon is an excellent back and he’s done a good job,” said Strickland. “Our offensive line has really done good,” added Strickland.
Sheppard garnered 43 yards on 11 carries while Boulware had 15 yards off four carries.
Cohanskie Goodson saw 22 yards on three carries while Eric Gallman had zero yards on three carries.
Stephen Davis (13 yards), Alexander (114) and Cureton (13) rounded out the pass receptions for Newberry.
The victory marks the 17th time since 1990 that Newberry has opened region play with a win.
Newberry, who now stands at 4-2 overall and 1-0 in regional play, will travel to Abbeville (5-1, 1-0) on Friday to take on the Panthers.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams since the second round of the 2007 playoffs.
The last time Newberry and Abbeville met in the regular season was 1969.
“Abbeville is a quality football program,” said Strickland. “They are going to be a tough foe.”