Tigers earn long-awaited victory over Titans

Brandon Speck | Daily Journal Saltillo junior Lance Crabtree was taken to the hospital for back X-rays during the second half on Saturday.

Brandon Speck | Daily Journal
Saltillo junior Lance Crabtree was taken to the hospital for back X-rays during the second half on Saturday.

By Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

SALTILLO – Giants apparently go down quietly.

Saltillo used six stones, but needed only two, in Saturday’s 6-1 win over Ridgeland in the MHSAA Class 5A state quarterfinals.

The Titans had been Saltillo’s giant, with two previous first-round playoff losses in Ridgeland.

But Ridgeland managed only Somto Ngwudike’s goal for coach Chase Douglas, who politely declined a postgame interview.

Saltillo, which plays at Germantown in Tuesday’s semifinals, hasn’t been quiet, winners of 13 straight. It was a benchmark win for the Tigers, now 13-2-1 and in the school’s first second-round match. Saltillo won a division title for the first time this season, too.

“Ridgeland has always been our Achilles’ heel,” Saltillo coach Eric Reynolds said. “We’re on a roll right now. We’ve got all the confidence in the world. I couldn’t be more proud of them right now.”

Conner Wade didn’t wait long to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. It came in the 37th minute on a shot reserved for highlight reels. Wade took a pass and quickly turned his body to the right and booted a hard shot into the net.

Ian Huckaby made it 2-0 on the first of his three goals, two on Sam Cash’s corner kicks, including a header in the first half for a 3-0 lead.

“We’ve got a lot of firsts,” said senior AJ Rye, whose free kick was the exclamation point with 3 seconds left. “We enjoy every minute of it.”

Ngwudike, the state’s third leading goal-scorer with 25 entering the match, got the Titans (12-8-1) within two goals by the half, but even that just looked like miscommunication between a trio of Tigers as the ball rolled in.

Crabtree hurt

Saltillo finished after junior Lance Crabtree was taken to the hospital for back X-rays midway through the second half. Less than a minute after he assisted on Zak Spradling’s goal, Crabtree took a hard shot and went down.

“Hopefully it’s just a pinched nerve,” Reynolds said. “I got my guys over to the side and said, ‘We’ve got to be sure to finish this game.’”

brandon.speck@journalinc.com