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Saline blows past Skyline, 45-6, remains the power in the SEC

By: Ben Szilagy, September 11, 2015, 11:24 pm

Ann Arbor – Saline has followed up its state finalist run last season with an impressive showing in the first three games this season.

The defending Southeastern Conference Red Division champion has a bull’s-eye on its back, and according to coach Joe Palka, it was critical to get a win on Friday night against a talented Ann Arbor Skyline team.

“It’s critical. Always critical,” he said. “The SEC Red is always very strong. Skyline is a team that is dangerous because they have so many athletes. Winning this game, always helps send a message to our players and the rest of the league.”

Saline’s message to the rest of the league is that the Hornets are still the team to beat was sent with a 45-6 win over Skyline on the road.

They didn’t waste any time doing it, either. Saline (3-0) churned up yards on its opening drive thanks to the steady play of senior quarterback Josh Jackson like they have all season.

The Hornets’ drive, however, stalled inside the Eagles 10-yard line.

On their next drive the Hornets did capitalize as William Breen kicked a 21-yard field goal with 7:39 left in the first quarter.

“Our guys aren’t stars. They are just hard workers, and are a complete eleven-man unit,” Palka said. “They have an ability to stop the run, and we were able to stay on top of receivers and play the ball.”

Cal Livesay recovered a Skyline fumble at the Eagle 21 and the Hornets cashed in on the next play.

Jackson (12-24, 198 yards) hit junior receiver Zach Schwartzenberger on a quick wheel route that was turned immediately up field for a 21-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead with 6:21 left in the half.

Injuries hit the Skyline backfield hard in the first half and the Eagles went to the passing to compensate.

“All three backs were down, and either one of them could be a feature back on any team,” Skyline coach Chan Brock said.

“Charles (Jones) can barely walk, and he’s one of the best backs in the state. Daelin Hayes (shoulder) is banged up, and TreShaun Haywood has a bad hip. We had some match-ups that we liked, but we didn’t want to end up abandoning the run. It was circumstance.”

Saline defensive back Zach Owings (two interceptions) jumped a route over the middle of the field for an interception to give Saline the ball with good field position.  Five plays later, Jackson kept the ball on the ground for a 9-yard touchdown run and a 17-0 lead with 5:08 left in the half.

Jackson had 80 rushing yards on 14 carries in the first half and in the second half junior Connor Hubbard emerged as the main ball carrier.

“(Hubbard) has gotten better every week,” Palka said. “He’s not a blazer, but his weapon is his patience. He can get low and let the hole develop, which can turn into long runs.”

Hubbard capped Saline’s first drive of the second half with a 30-yard touchdown run for a 24-0 lead with 9:35 to play in the third quarter. He finish with 96 yards on seven carries.

Leading 31-0, Saline went to quarterback Zach Schwartzenberger and the 6-foot junior accounted for three touchdowns, one on the ground, one through the air, and one receiving, which was not surprising to Palka.

“(Schwartzenberger) did a great job tonight. Skyline was keying on Jeb a lot, so we put Zach in the backfield and had him in match-ups outside,” he said. “He was able to play in the second half as well at Quarterback, which is his natural position.”

Skyline prevented the shutout when quarterback Joe Walker threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Rison with 3:29 to play.

While the play might appear insignificant, Brock said that it personified his team’s heart and attitude.

“Our kids have heart. We were always going to finish,” he said. “We’re still learning how to win, and we need to learn to win games like this and compete in them too. Hopefully we can get healthy and start to turn things around.”