SALADO — The Salado Eagles entered their home finale knowing that despite being in sixth place in the seven-team District 8-4A-II standings, they still had an opportunity to make the playoffs.
They also knew that three things had to happen. They need the other district games to work out in their favor to come out ahead in a potential tiebreaker scenario. They need to beat the Fairfield Eagles next week and finally, and most importantly, they needed to beat the Mexia Blackcats on Friday night.
Hunter Turk and the Eagles’ offense made sure that was taken care of as Turk scored four touchdowns and rushed for 188 yards to help Salado topple Mexia 44-21 at Eagle Stadium.
“It was a big step if we want to get in the playoffs,” Turk said. “Of course, a couple of things have to happen. But this is definitely one of them and we got it. It meant a lot, but I know it meant a lot for the seniors. It’s their last night on this field and I definitely wanted to perform for them.”
Turk put on a show for them, scoring three touchdowns in the first half — two from 5 yards out and one from 22.
“He’s an explosive little guy,” Salado coach Alan Haire said. “Nobody works harder than him and I’m glad it worked out for him.”
Turk’s first two scores put the Eagles (4-5, 2-3) up 15-0, with Connor Cook scoring on a 2-point conversion after the first one and Nadar Smien kicking an extra point after the second. Turk’s third score and a 4-yard run by Wrook Brown helped the Eagles build a 29-14 advantage by halftime.
Mexia (2-7, 0-5) made it a little interesting in the third quarter, scoring on its opening drive to make it 29-21 and getting a fourth-down stop on the Eagles’ ensuing possession.
The Blackcats then got into Salado territory and faced fourth-and-6 at the Eagles 34-yard line, where Salado’s Caleb Self came up with a sack on Mexia’s Jaden Proctor to end the drive.
Turk rushed for 46 yards on Salado’s first offensive play of the next drive to help set up his final touchdown of the night — from 4 yards out — all but sealing the victory for the Eagles.
“We moved the chains once, couldn’t move them a second time,” Haire said. “But our defense came up with a huge stop a couple of times on fourth down.”
Now the Eagles’ focus turns to the other things they need to happen to reach the playoffs, which is getting a win at Fairfield next week and hoping things go their way elsewhere.
A victory next week would ensure that Salado finishes in a tie for third with several teams. If that happens, the Eagles could make the playoffs, depending on who they are tied with and the final scores of some of those games.
“Our kids responded well tonight, and I’m really proud of their effort,” Haire said. “I’m glad our last week means something. You have to win on the road in the playoffs so, therefore, it doesn’t matter where you play. You just have to play well in the 48 minutes. Like I tell the kids, you don’t have to be the best team out there. All we have to do is play the best in those 48 minutes.”