MARLIN — What the Salado Eagles thought they could exploit was their own undoing.

But, instead of parlaying Marlin turnovers into their first win of the season, the Eagles turned the ball over five times and lost their fifth straight game, 41-31, to the Bulldogs at Legion Stadium on Friday.

“They did a good job overall taking care of the football. That was one of the things we saw on video that we thought we could take advantage of is try to get takeaways in hopes that we would be the better-disciplined team tonight and take care of the football better and that wasn’t the case,” Salado head coach Brent Graham said. “We put the ball in jeopardy too many times; we’ve got to own the football to be successful. Our guys know that and we just came up short.”

Botavian Mayes scored two special teams scores, one on offense and one on defense, and the Bulldogs (3-2, 2-2) ran for 377 yards to win their straight game and remain undefeated in District 13-2A Division I.

Salado (0-5, 0-2) led 10-0 early in the second quarter, but Mayes returned on a blocked field goal 75 yards for Marlin’s go-ahead score late in the period to give the Bulldogs a 14-10 lead at halftime. Marlin scored on all four of its possessions in the third quarter, including a 15-yard touchdown pass from BJ Huitt to Mayes on a blocked field goal, and led 41-24 going into the fourth.

“It’s little things,” Graham said. “Trying to get over the hump, success is something that’s been a challenge for us in the win column. You see great things and flashes of life of a good football team. I believe in these kids and I know that they believe in themselves, we just haven’t gotten over the hump, yet. I know it’s going to happen. We’re going to press on and do what we do and continue to get better every day. We just made too many mistakes tonight and they capitalized on them.”

Salado quarterback Carter McLane finished with 387 yards and three touchdowns on 32-of-54 passing, but threw three interceptions. The Eagles also lost two fumbles. Ryan Simmons led the Eagles with 57 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He also had eight catches for 54 yards. Kase Spears had 11 catches for 203 yards and one touchdown.

Paul Humphrey led Marlin with 155 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries and Jarice Stricklin added 147 yards and another touchdown 20 carries.

Salado jumped out to a 10-0 lead on 40-yard touchdown pass from Carter to Spears on the Eagles’ second drive of the game, and Simmons kicked a 20-yard field goal on their next drive early in the second, but the Bulldogs took over from there.

Stricklan had runs of 19 and 22 yards and DaMarcus Womack scored from a yard out to give the Bulldogs their first points with 7:38 left in the half.

After the two teams traded turnovers, Salado marched 44 yards, aided by a pass interference call, to set up a 25-yard field goal try by Simmons. Javier Green blocked Simmons’ attempt, and Mayes scooped up the loose ball at the 25-yard line and sprinted the distance to score the go-ahead touchdown with 3:14 left in the half.

The Eagles drove 56 yards to the Marlin 14 on their next drive, but wide-open Spears dropped Simmons’ half-back pass in the end zone on a fourth-and-1 play in the final minute.

Salado turned the ball over twice in the third quarter, one of which set up Mayes’ touchdown reception, and once in the fourth quarter. After Salado blocked the field goal attempt, Huitt grabbed the ball on a high bounce and the quarterback had the wherewithal to find an open Mayes in the end zone on the opposite side of the ball.

“Life is full of that. Life is full of ups and downs and it was a tremendous display of that tonight,” Graham said. “The things that you don’t see, that the naked eye doesn’t see, is the resilience of our kids getting fourth-down stops, getting turnovers. There were some good things that our defense did tonight. Obviously, the scoreboard does not reflect that, but our defense did some good things tonight.”

After Salado took its 10-0 lead, Marlin scored 27 straight points. Carter threw touchdown passes of 8 and 2 yards to Jacob Little and Simmons scored on a 1-yard run in the second half, but the Eagles could never get their deficit below 10.

“Ultimately, we’ve got to get to better, we know that,” Graham said. “We knew where our faults are and our weaknesses are, and we’re going to continue to push and get better in those areas.”

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