JACKSON – Fourth-seeded Saltillo was no pushover for the state’s No. 2 -ranked team, Jackson Callaway, in Friday’s MHSAA Class 5A opener.
However, the homestanding Chargers – a team with four Ole Miss commitments – had enough firepower to defeat the Tigers 56-34 at Newell Field.
Callaway (13-0) needed a 34-yard touchdown run by quarterback T.J. Washington on a third-and-15 with 3 minutes remaining to seal the victory.
“They made the plays at critical times,” Saltillo coach Pat Byrd said. “We just ran out of gas. If a team has played with more guts and heart than this bunch, I’d like to see them.”
Saltillo (8-5) had cut the Chargers’ lead to 42-34 at the 5:52 mark on a 4-yard pass from Tyler Tollison to Reggie Miller.
Callaway running back Carlos Ransburgh rushed for 154 yards and scored three touchdowns.
“They’re talented and very good up front,” Byrd said.
Saltillo tailback Diamante Pounds rushed for 96 yards on 17 carries and didn’t score. The junior finished the season with 2,039 unofficial yards rushing.
Pounds did throw a 74-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Rye in the third quarter.
The Tigers, trailing 7-0, scored on a 62-yard pass from Miller to Rye. Miller fielded a throwback pass from Tollison and found the speedy Rye all alone down the field.
Rye kicked field goals of 27 and 31 yards in the second quarter while Tollison added a 1-yard TD run for Saltillo’s 20 first-half points.
Saltillo struggled with stopping Ransburgh, who rushed for 115 yards and scored two touchdowns in the first half to help the Chargers build a 28-20 halftime lead.
Ransburgh scored the game’s first points on a 40-yard run. He added Callaway’s final points of the half on a 27-yard run.
Ransburgh’s running mate, Kendrick Catchings, scored on runs of 13 and 41 yards in the first half for Callaway. He added a 4-yard TD run late in the game.