SALADO — Wrook Brown and the Salado Eagles had one goal in mind this season.
“We and the senior class really wanted a district championship,” the senior running back said. “And beating China Spring is a big part of that.”
The championship isn’t wrapped up yet, but Salado has a playoff spot in the bag after Brown scored two touchdowns to lead the 10th-ranked Eagles over the No. 6 Cougars 28-14 in a battle of District 9-4A-II front-runners Friday night.
With the game tied at 7 late in the first half, Brown turned the momentum to the Eagles with his first score of the night. Facing third-and-long, most of Salado’s Slot-T offense pulled to the right as Brown took the handoff on a trap in the opposite direction. Once he got through the hole on the left, he had 74 yards of mostly open field ahead of him on the way to the end zone. He added the extra-point kick to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead with 1:46 left before halftime.
“That opened it up and allowed us to get comfortable,” Salado coach Alan Haire said. “That made us realize that we have a shot at this deal.”
Salado (7-1, 3-0) started the opening drive of the second half on its 28 and mounted a 15-play drive, capped with a 2-yard touchdown run by Brown with 3:26 left in the third quarter for a 21-7 lead.
“I’m proud of the second-half execution, taking time off the clock and time of possession,” Haire said. “I know it’s fundamental, but when our offense is out there, it keeps theirs off the field. That was big because we know how explosive their offense can be.”
The two-score lead put pressure on China Spring (6-1, 2-1) to answer quickly. The Cougars did, cutting the lead to 21-14 with a five-play drive that left just over a minute remaining in the third quarter. Their ensuing onside kick failed to go 10 yards, and Salado took over at the China Spring 42.
The Cougars had two more possessions but didn’t crack the Eagles defense.
After China Spring was forced to punt, Salado mounted another long drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Noah Mescher for a 28-14 lead.
The Cougars’ final possession ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down at the Salado 17 with less than a minute to play.
“We knew we were playing a valuable opponent,” Haire said. “And that’s how you measure yourself — against the best, not the average. We found out how good we can be. “
Brown led the Eagles with 160 yards on 16 carries, and Mescher had 98 yards on 22 carries. Caden Strickland, who scored Salado’s first touchdown, added 41 yards on nine carries.
The teams went three-and-out on their first possessions of the night before China Spring started the scoring with a 17-yard touchdown run by Jordan Nevarez with 6:05 left in the opening quarter.
Salado answered on its ensuing drive with Strickland’s 1-yard score with 11:07 left in the half.
After the teams exchanged punts, the momentum started to turn for the Eagles when their defense stopped Emmanuel Abdallah short of the line to gain on fourth-and-1 at the Salado 26.
The Eagles needed just three plays to take the lead on Brown’s score.
“We knew China Spring would be a tough test for us,” Brown said. “They have a good offense, good defense and are well-coached.”
SALADO 28, CHINA SPRING 14
China Spring 7 0 7 0 — 14
CS — Jordan Nevarez 18 run (Karson Coe kick)
Sal — Caden Strickland 1 run (Wrook Brown kick)
Sal — Brown 74 run (Brown kick)
Sal — Brown 2 run (Brown kick)
CS — Emmanuel Abdallah 2 run (Coe kick)
Sal — Noah Mescher 1 run (Brown kick)
First downs 12 17
Rushes-yards 36-242 45-201
Passing yards 25 17
Comp.-Att.-Int. 4-11-0 2-6-0
Punts-average 3-34.3 2-43.5
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 8-64 10-70
RUSHING — China Spring, Major Bowden 16-152, Abdallah 19-72, Nevarez 1-18. Salado, Brown 16-160, Mescher 22-98, Reid Vincent 9-42, Strickland 9-41, Hutton Haire 3-6, team 1-(minus 2).
PASSING — China Spring, Bowden 4-11-0-25. Salado: Haire 2-6-0-17.
RECEIVING — China Spring, Tre Hafford 2-19, Abdallah 1-7, Sebastian Trevino 1-(minus 1). Salado, Brown 2-17.
China Spring 2-1
Waco Connally 2-1
x-clinched playoff spot
Gatesville 17, Robinson 6
No. 10 Salado 28, No. 6 China Spring 14
Waco Connally 56, Jarrell 22