FAIRFIELD — The Salado Eagles entered the final week of the regular season needing a win and some help to make the playoffs.
They got neither, as Fairfield’s Jashaughn Hatcher rushed for 288 yards and four touchdowns to lead the host Eagles to a 28-15 victory over Salado in the District 8-4A-II finale.
“Love these kids, love the effort they gave us tonight,” Salado coach Alan Haire said. “We battled a darn good football team.”
Salado (4-6, 2-3) needed to win and get a victory by Robinson over Waco Connally to secure a playoff berth. Neither happened as Connally won to grab one of the district’s postseason spots along with Fairfield, Robinson and Lorena.
“We would have taken the win, though,” Haire said. “We’re just trying to be successful.”
After trailing 20-8 at halftime, Salado made it interesting.
The defense forced Fairfield (8-2, 4-2) to punt on its opening possession of the second half, and then the offense got on a tear.
It took Salado five plays to march from its 38-yard line to the Fairfield 39, and Wrook Brown ran it in from there to cut the gap to 20-15 after Brown’s extra-point kick.
Fairfield got to the Salado 4 on its ensuing drive. On fourth-and-short, Hatcher was stopped for no gain — only the second time all game that he failed to gain positive yards — giving the ball back to Salado.
Connor Cook busted free for a 36-yard gain to get Salado near midfield and, after a series of short runs, the visiting Eagles faced third-and-3 from the Fairfield 25 as the quarter expired. From there, Salado’s Slot-T offense attempted a pass that fell incomplete.
“It was just off his fingertips,” Haire said. “We didn’t care if we got the 3 yards. We just wanted to loosen up their outside linebacker. And the way I look at it there is we had two plays to get the first down.”
Brown’s lunge over a small pile on fourth down landed just inches short of the first down. Fairfield put the ball in Hatcher’s hands and mounted a 12-play drive that ended with his 9-yard score to essentially end Salado’s season.
“I tell you what, Coach Haire had his guys ready to play,” Fairfield coach John Batchel said. “They played a heck of a football game. And you know when you play them, they are going to play four quarters. We just had a couple more big plays. Hatcher is a tough kid. He’s hard to tackle. We kept giving him the ball, and he pounded some yards out.”
Batchel also said the game plan was to get ahead of Salado early, go up by a few scores and make the run-based visitors have to pass.
Haire praised his young team for having fought to the final week to stay in the playoff hunt.
“These kids exceeded expectations,” he said. “Nobody really gave them a shot to do much with what we lost to graduation. We just had so many young kids that had to learn the experience of varsity football. I love their fight and love how they get better each week.”