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  • Greg Wille

FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: Area-round preview capsule for No. 6 Salado (10-1) vs. Bellville (9-1)



No. 6 SALADO EAGLES (10-1)


7 p.m. Friday, Mary Hardin-Baylor's

Crusader Stadium, Belton

Last week's bi-district results: Salado defeated Rusk by forfeit (COVID-19); Bellville 41, Sour Lake Hardin-Jefferson 10

Last meeting: 2017 – Salado 13, Bellville 10 (OT) in Class 4A Division II Region III semifinal

Winner plays: No. 1-ranked Carthage (9-0) or Silsbee (7-3) in Region III semifinal next week

Game notes: Salado and Bellville clash in the playoffs' second round for the third time in five seasons, and this will be the rubber match since because program has won once. Coach Alan Haire's Eagles won 13-10 in overtime in 2017, one year after coach Grady Rowe's Brahmas prevailed 34-14. Both years, the Salado-Bellville winner was eliminated by perennial power West Orange-Stark in a regional semifinal. . . . Salado returns to the scene of its season-opening 46-27 win over Troy on Aug. 28, when the Eagles racked up 429 rushing yards at UMHB's stadium. . . . Salado plays its first game since Oct. 30, when it beat Robinson 66-0 to complete a 5-0 run to the District 9-4A Division II championship. The Eagles had an open date the following week, then picked up a playoff win by forfeit when Rusk announced last Friday morning that it couldn't play that night's bi-district game in College Station because of positive COVID-19 cases. . . . This is Salado's first season with 10-plus victories since it went 12-2 in 2017 and only the Eagles' fifth season of 10-plus wins in program history. . . . Salado's Slot-T offense averages 382 rushing yards in its 10 games on the field. Noah Mescher paces the Eagles with 1,335 yards and 19 touchdowns, Reid Vincent has 1,065 yards and nine scores and Wrook Brown and Caden Strickland have rushed for a combined 1,084 yards and 19 TDs. . . . Also a safety and kicker, Brown leads Salado with 77 tackles and has scored 124 total points, which ranks third in the area behind Troy's Zach Hrbacek and Lampasas' Ace Whitehead. . . . Linebacker Kofi Stoglin has 70 tackles, safety Josh Huckabee has 66 and LB Lucas Morvant 58 for a balanced Salado defense that's allowed only 239.5 yards per game. . . . After going 51-29 with five playoff berths in seven seasons as Troy's head coach from 2004-10, Rowe is 91-34 in 10 seasons at Bellville – including four seasons of 10-plus wins – and has steered the Brahmas into postseason play every year. . . . Since a 31-28 district loss at No. 9 Sealy on Oct. 16 for its lone setback of the season, Bellville dominated its last three games by a combined 155-20 score. . . . Dynamic junior running back Richard Reese leads the Brahmas' version of the Slot-T attack with 1,736 yards (10.2 per carry) and 26 touchdowns, while junior Robert Briggs has run for 636 yards (10.8 per carry) and 10 TDs. Junior QB Jake Lischka has attempted only 77 passes (46 more than Salado junior QB Hutton Haire), but he's completed 52 of them for 924 yards and 11 touchdowns, connecting with Briggs 27 times for 422 yards and six TDs. . . . Garrett Babylon leads Bellville's defense with 137 tackles, Tyler Fishbeck has 103 stops, Logan Cruz has 83 tackles with 5½ sacks and Trevon Green has made five interceptions. . . . Next week's likely foe for the Salado-Bellville victor is top-ranked Carthage, which won the 4A Division I state championship in 2019 before dropping to 4A D-II.

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