SALADO — In a final tune-up before embarking on District 8-4A-II play, the Salado Eagles got a glimpse Friday night at how far they’ve come in the first month of the season.
They also got a look at how far they need to go.
For all the gains the Eagles had, they had difficulty solving Taylor’s short passing game that the Ducks routinely converted into a long-game attack. It proved too much for Salado to overcome as it fell to Taylor 35-25 in a homecoming game at Eagle Field.
“We just gave up too many passing yards,” Salado coach Alan Haire said. “Their passing game was strong and we just needed to get more stops.”
Indeed, the Ducks (2-2), behind the arm of Cole Harms and mostly the hands of Josh Blue, piled up 241 yards through the air to more than offset the Eagles’ prolific running game.
As is typical, Salado (2-2) rolled up 347 yards on the ground led by the three-pronged battering attack of Connor Cook, Wrook Brown and Hunter Turk.
Taylor got on top first by taking advantage of a short field following a short punt, using five plays to go 33 yards for the only points of the first quarter. Jailen Tealer set up the score with a 14-yard run to the Salado 5-yard line. Two plays later, Austin Flores pounded in from the 1-yard line, and the Ducks led 7-0 at the 6-minute mark of the first quarter.
The Eagles wrested control for much of the second quarter. Salado went 55 yards in six plays, with Connor Cook breaking through the line and racing 27 yards for the touchdown. The point-after ricocheted off the left upright and fell back into the end zone, and the Eagles trailed 7-6 with 9 minutes, 47 seconds to go in the half.
After a defensive stop, Salado garnered the lead when Brown sprinted 50 yards for another touchdown. The attempt at the 2-point conversion was stuffed by the Ducks to leave the margin at 12-7.
Taylor got it back with a sustained 70-yard scoring drive in 11 plays, capped by a 5-yard pass from Cole Harms to tight end Sammy Sanchez in the middle of the end zone. Blue made a catch for the 2-point conversion to put the Ducks ahead 15-12.
Taylor added another touchdown before halftime, a 2-yard plunge by Flores to carry a 22-12 lead into the break.
Salado got back within three points early in the second half, going 75 yards in 14 plays, capped by a 14-yard strike from Hutton Haire to Turk on a fourth-down play to cut the gap to 22-19.
However, the Ducks came back with 13 straight points in a 2-minute span. Flores went in again from the 6-yard line, and Harms connected with Santiago Estrada for a 27-yard scoring strike following an Eagles turnover as the Ducks carried a 35-19 advantage into the final period.
Salado tacked on a fourth-quarter touchdown with an 84-yard march in eight plays, largely on the hard-running legs of Cook and Turk. Cook finished the drive by plowing his way in from the 6-yard line. The 2-point conversion failed, and the Eagles trailed by the deciding margin 35-25.
“I was proud of the effort,” Haire said. “That was our first real intense game. We just couldn’t get the touchdowns when we needed them.”