By Gene Phelps
SALTILLO – Saltillo coach Pat Byrd knows the challenges his Tigers face Friday when they play at Jackson Callaway in the opening round of the MHSAA Class 5A football playoffs.
The Chargers (12-0) are loaded with talent. Their lineup features four Ole Miss commitments in offensive guard Rod Taylor, defensive end Breeland Speaks, safety Ronald Walker and wide receiver Dayall Harris.
“They’ve got weapons,” Byrd said. “They’ve got the best offensive lineman in the country in that Taylor kid. If they get rolling on you, you’ve got a problem.
“We need to shorten the game, milk the clock.”
Saltillo (8-4) earned a No. 4 seeding last week with its 49-24 victory against New Hope. Tigers senior quarterback Tyler Tollison passed for three touchdowns and rushed for two against the Trojans.
“He’s got to operate and make good decisions (this week),” Byrd said. “Callaway is very athletic in its secondary.”
Of course, Saltillo’s big offensive gun is junior running back Diamante Pounds, who has rushed for 1,943 yards and scored 20 touchdowns. He has logged three 200-yard rushing games and one 300-yard game this season. His best was 304 yards against Center Hill.
“We need him to be a good player Friday night,” Byrd said. “We’ve got to establish the run to have a chance.”
Callaway’s explosive outside zone attack features three running backs with plenty of firepower – Kendrick Catchings (821 rushing yards), Jabari Woodcox (713) and Carlos Ransburgh (628).
They’ve accounted for 23 rushing touchdowns.
The Chargers’ quarterback, T.J. Washington, has rushed for 678 yards and passed for 754. He’s accounted for 20 TDs, 13 passing.
“Washington runs like a deer,” Byrd said. “All three of the tailbacks are good. When they do throw they go four wide and throw it down the field.”
The kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on the artificial turf at Newell Field.