Canton's rushing attack, defense leads the way to upset win over Saline
Saline – The sting from last year’s loss to Saline in the regional final, where Canton watched a 14-point first half lead turn into a heartbreking 42-35 loss was not all gone, when the Chiefs faced Saline with a spot in the Division 1 semifinals on the line for a second straight year.
While Canton jumped out to another two touchdown lead in the first half, the Chiefs continued to dominate on both sides of the ball as they would roll to a 27-7 win over last year’s Division 1 runners up.
Canton coach Tim Baechler said that his defense played better than even he expected it to on Friday night and added that a big key to the game was a picture perfect third quarter for the Chiefs.
“Our defense played better than I thought, I’m so proud of those guys and man, they wanted this,” he said. “Our offense, we had those long drives, it was a perfect third quarter. They had a four minute drive, we stopped them on fourth down and then we had an eight minute drive that ended in points. You couldn’t draw it up any better than that.”
Coming out of halftime with a 14-0 lead, the Canton defense forced a turnover on downs on its own 36-yard line with eight minutes left to play in the third quarter to give the offense the ball back.
From there, the Chiefs’ offense went to work.
Canton would go on a 14-play drive that would last eight minutes, keeping the dangerous Saline offense on the sideline, capped off by a 1-yard run by Lou Baechler to push the lead to 20-0 as time expired in the third quarter.
Tim Baechler said that his team’s 14-play drive was important for the Chiefs to keep the momentum with Canton going forward in the game.
“That was absolutely huge,” he said. “We talked about gaining momentum back in the second half, the defense gets a stop, offensively, the offense has to come through and we eventually get a score and the momentum was 100 percent on our side.”
Saline did respond, 35 seconds into the fourth quarter, when quarterback and Virginia Tech commit Josh Jackson connected with Mike Monahan for a 38-yard touchdown to cut the deficit down to 20-7.
Saline coach Joe Palka said that he felt that the touchdown throw could have been a momentum swing for his team, but the Hornets came up short trying to recover the ensuing kick and failed to stop Canton on third down shortly after.
“We thought we had some momentum there,” he said. “We felt that if we get that kick and we were talking that as a defensive staff, if we could get the stop on third down, that’s typical Saline football, we’re coming back and it’s our quarter, but it just didn’t happen today.”
On the following drive for Canton, the Chiefs faced a third down, but junior Markus Sanders took off on a 49-yard run down to the Saline 22-yard line and a few plays later, Canton would push its lead back to 20 as Jared Stephens scored on a 6-yard run to cap off a five minute scoring drive to make it 27-7 with 6:13 left.
Stephens said he and the rest of the offense knew the importance of sustaining long scoring drives on Friday night to keep the Saline offense on the sidelines.
“We knew if we got the ball out of their hands and give the ball back to our offense, we could run off some clock,” he said. “That’s what our offense does, we get the ball, we run off the clock to keep their offense off the field.”
Late in the game, the Canton defense would force another turnover on downs after a sack by Baechler and Jake Stephan, and the Canton offense would run the remaining time off of the clock.
Sanders, who recorded a 44-yard run late in the game to seal the win, said that he could sense his team only getting stronger as Friday’s game went on and added that last year’s game was on his team’s mind as the Chiefs were looking finish Friday’s game.
“That’s exactly what it was, we weren’t coming out with another loss again to them,” he said. “It was really emotional last year and we had to get this job done this time.”
“It was in the back of our minds that we weren’t letting it happen again. We didn’t want it to happen again and we just had to get it done.”
In the first half, Canton used a 1-yard touchdown from Jake O’Donnell with 19 seconds left in the first quarter and a 2-yard run by Jakob Wickens late in the second quarter to take a 14-0 lead into halftime.