By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
Eight years have passed since the Saltillo Tigers made the playoffs. The tide is as close to turning as it has ever been this season.
Saltillo is also hoping to turn the tide in a series that hasn’t gone its way since then either.
The Tigers (5-2, 2-1) are sitting in a better place than many predicted and now face huge back-to-back challenges against the state title favorite West Point Green Wave before going to unbeaten Oxford the next week.
So how good is Saltillo?
“We’re going to play the best team in the division, so we’ll have a pretty good understanding,” Saltillo coach Pat Byrd said.
The Tigers were a made extra point away from a 3-0 start to division play on Friday, scoring first in overtime. But after a failed point after attempt, host Center Hill won the Division 1-5A game 21-20.
Friday’s loss ended a five-game win streak that saw Saltillo score at least 34 points in each.
“We were playing with a lot of confidence Friday. Too many mistakes. We had some penalties early that killed a couple of drives,” Byrd said. (Center Hill) is a talented football team. We made too many mistakes on the road to win a game in this region and we can’t do that.”
The Tigers have had three turnovers and have been led offensively by transfer quarterback Andrew Soper and have seen skill players develop along the way, including A.J. Hunt, who caught a 63-yard touchdown pass on Friday.
A playoff appearance would be the first in Byrd’s three seasons and first since a first-round loss at Lafayette in 2004. Saltillo had lost 21 straight division games prior to this season.
No team is mathematically eliminated from the four playoff spots.
“It’s just a week-by-week thing. We just want to try to win a week at a time,” Byrd said. “The old adage, just take what’s in front of you. Don’t look ahead and don’t look back.”