By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
NEW HOPE – Normally head coaches want their players to treat each game as just one win or just as one loss. But excuse Saltillo head coach Pat Byrd if he allows his guys to savor Friday night’s 42-22 victory at New Hope just a little longer than normal.
Behind a 27-point fourth quarter, the Tigers rolled past New Hope to capture the school’s first region victory since moving to the Class 5A level. The Tigers also won their fourth straight to move to 4-1 overall, 1-0 in region play.
“You don’t have enough room in your paper to say how much we talked about this,” said Byrd. “The kids are finally starting to see a little bit of fruits of their hard work. It is only one game and we know that. But I want them to enjoy this because they haven’t much of a chance to do that before.”
Saltillo quarterback Andrew Soper rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown and also threw for a pair of scores in the win. Soper capped off the fourth-quarter explosion with a rushing touchdown late in the contest and talked of the importance of the victory.
“This is huge for us and huge for our confidence,” Soper said. “We can’t get the big head but it is good to get confidence. To win four in a row, man, it feels pretty good. But we just have to keep taking it one game at a time.”
His Tigers geneated 301 yards of offense in the second half. Saltillo’s A.J. Hunt was very much in that mix with two touchdown receptions and he also threw a touchdown pass.
The Tigers only managed two first downs in the first half and both came on the same drive that resulted in three points. But even that score came with disappointment. Saltillo had first-and-goal at the 2-yard line but ended up settling for a 22-yard field goal with 8:55 left in the first half.
On Saltillo’s next possession, New Hope recovered a fumble at the Tigers’ three-yard line and Q. Newby scored from three yards out on the ensuing play. The Trojans took an 8-3 lead following a two-point run.
Saltillo failed to get a first down on its last four drives of the first half but did put more points on the scoreboard. A host of Tigers sacked New Hope quarterback Bradley Davis in the end zone with just under two minutes left in the first half. Yet the Tigers were only down a field goal.
“We had opportunities and should’ve had two touchdowns in the first half,” said Byrd. “And you can’t do that in this league. To be honest, I didn’t say many kind words at halftime. I don’t know if that had an effect or not but we came out in the second half and made some plays.”