After its 38-8 win over Florence on Friday, Salado improved its season record to 2-2.
It might seem like a small thing, but that record is significant to the Eagles’ football program. It is the most wins they have earned in a season since 2012, when they went 2-8.
Their two wins after four games this year have also equaled the amount they accrued in their previous three campaigns from 2013-15, where they went a combined 2-29.
A lot of that success is a credit to first-year head coach Alan Haire, who returned to Salado this season after spending the previous 13 years as head coach at Lago Vista. He served as an assistant for the Eagles from 1994-2000.
Haire brought with him the old-school slot-T offense, a style that is being seen less and less in high school football. He deployed the more popular spread offense for the Vikings until after 2006, a year Lago Vista’s season was derailed largely because its starting quarterback suffered a broken wrist in a preseason scrimmage.
“I told myself I’d never again put my team in a situation where we depended upon one person,” Haire said. “In 2007, we went to the slot-T because we felt like — if your kids bought in and had the right mentality — you could take average talent that plays hard and be successful.”
It takes a lot of discipline to run the slot-T, especially along the offensive line.
“Once we teach you your path,” Haire said, “you stay on your path, you understand your rules and you’ve got to go full speed. There’s no zone concept, there’s no double-team-to-come-off-the-linebacker concept, it’s just paths and speed — going as fast as you can.
“We’re not asking you to block for very long; just get a piece of them and execute. But we do ask that you give great effort.”
The scheme was run to perfection against the Buffaloes on Friday, a team coached by Zane Bode, Haire’s longtime friend.
“He’s got them rolling, and I saw it on film this week,” Bode said after the game. “He’s got his offensive line clicking. They’re going to open some people’s eyes, I really believe.”
The consistency of Salado’s offensive line made it difficult for Florence to stop its rushing attack. The Buffs could contain it at times, but an opposing defense must also be very disciplined and patient in order to control the slot-T.
The job done by Eagle blockers Willy Whigham, Nathaniel Sunshine, Phil Ruiz, Noah Barker, Robert Soto and Gabe Kane allowed the team to rack up 267 yards on the ground.
Trey Sheppard led Salado with 24 carries for 158 yards and a touchdown. Jake Harvey had six carries for 65 yards, and Cade Depoy rushed eight times for 56 yards and a score.
And while the Eagles will not throw it often, quarterback Hayden Haire is able to take advantage of the defense’s over-commitment to stopping the run. Haire completed 4 of 6 passes against Florence for 169 yards and three touchdowns.
Not to be outdone, Salado’s 3-3 stack defense stood tall Friday, as well. It held running back Edel Hernandez and quarterback C.J. Giddens, the Buffs’ two biggest playmakers on the ground, to just 82 yards rushing on 27 combined carries.
Defensive linemen Zach Adams, Andrew Sniggs and Wyatt Bagley took on blocks and allowed linebackers Jacob Wilk and Tate Hill to fill holes and make tackles. Safety Tate Harvey also had a strong game in the secondary.
All in all, the Eagles are playing well just four games into the season, and Haire is happy to see the team have some pep in their step.
“You don’t coach talent, you coach their hearts,” Haire said. “I had to earn their hearts first, and I’m just excited that they can at least feel a little success. That’ll help build some confidence.”