No magic in Saltillo’s improvement

By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal

SALTILLO – A month into the season, the Saltillo Tigers are 3-1 and have eclipsed last season’s win total, as they went 2-9.
“We thought we’d be better defensively – and we have – and offensively we’ve got a handful of skill folks and we’re able to score a few points,” said Saltillo coach Pat Byrd. “I don’t know that it’s any magic formula.”
TCPS transfer quarterback Andrew Soper may be the newest Tiger, but he has has been one of the keys. Soper says he has had to adapt to a faster game, moving from Class 1A.
The 5A schedule starts after this bye week but the Tigers have already faced Itawamba, Mooreville, Belmont and Baldwyn.
Soper has passed for 497 yards and the team has rushed for 412. He has thrown seven touchdowns against three interceptions.
“We’ve been getting better every single week,” Soper said. “It took me a little bit to adjust to the speed. It’s a lot quicker than I thought.”
Saltillo moved into the Daily Journal’s Large Schools rankings this week and has scored five touchdowns in each of the last three games after a 17-7 loss in the opener against Itawamba. While trying to find an identity defensively, the Tigers are clicking on offense.
Versatile senior A.J. Hunt has been a factor, along with wideout A.J. Rye.
In last week’s 34-33 overtime win at Booneville, Hunt had four catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns, as well as a punt return score. Do-it-all Tyler Tollison has 392 yards and three touchdowns.
Soper has 319 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
“His adjustment is the speed of the game. Even though we haven’t gotten into 5A yet, he’s still played a lot faster competition than what he played at TCPS,” Byrd said.
Improvements will have to keep steady. The Tigers will jump into 1-5A in two weeks at New Hope.
After not winning a division game last year – losing two of those by a touchdown – the seven-game schedule includes a trip to Oxford and a home game against West Point.
brandon.speck@journalinc.com