In a game that saw as many momentum swings as a roller coaster at Carowinds. The Saluda Tigers avenged three previous losses to Abbeville in the Upper-State championship game by defeating the 4 time defending State Champion 32-28 to advance to the AA State Championship.
The night started off like the previous meeting with a fumble on the Tigers first drive that the Panthers returned to the 1 yard line where they punched it in on their first play and jumped to an early 7-0 lead. The game would then turn into a defensive battle that saw punts, an interception and a blocked Abbeville field goal attempt until the Tigers were able to add to a 27 yard field goal by Adrian Vasquez that would cut the lead to 7-3. Abbeville would add a 78 yard touchdown run with 1:37 remaining that would increase the Panthers lead to 14-3 at the half.
Abbeville would take the 2nd half kickoff and increase their lead to 21-3 on a 16 yard run, but the Tigers would answer on their first play of the drive with an 80 yard touchdown pass from Noah Bell to Dallan Wright. Adrian Vasquez would add the extra point and the Tigers would trail 21-10 with 9:01 remaining in the third quarter. Hayden Cherry would intercept a Panthers pass and give the Tigers excellent field position on the Panthers 38 yard line where it would take the Tigers only 3 plays to score as Bell would connect with Wright from 20 yards out for their second touchdown of the night and the Vasquez extra point would cut the Panthers lead to 21-17 with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter. The Panthers would increase their lead to 28-17 after a 12 yard touchdown run with 8:38 remaining in the game. The Tigers would methodically march down the field and face a 4th and 11 from the Panthers 21 yard yard line and Bell would complete a 19 yard pass to Keenan Brooks down to the Panthers 2 yard line. Bell would score on the next play on a 2 yard run and would then hook up with Wright on a highlight reel one-handed reception to cut the Panthers lead to 28-25 with 5:34 remaining in the game. The Saluda defense would then have their biggest stand of the night and force a 3 and out and a punt that would give the Tigers the ball back trailing by 3 with 3:52 remaining in the game. Bell would connect with Wright on a 43 yard pass play that would get the Tigers down to the 10 yard line and from there Bell would run it to the 1 yard line on first down and then punch it in from 1 yard out. Vasquez would add the extra point and with 2:30 remaining Saluda would take their first lead of the night, 32-28. The Tigers defense would rise up again and Hayden Cherry would get his 2nd interception of the night and give the Tigers the ball back with 1:38 to go. The Tigers were unable to get a first down and turned it over on downs with 33 seconds to go in the game, however the Tigers would not be denied and completed the remarkable 32-28 come from behind victory and send the Tigers to the AA State Championship game next Friday night.
Noah Bell would lead the Tigers in rushing with 70 yards on 20 carries and 2 touchdowns. Bell would also throw for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns on a 24-32 night. Dallan Wright would have 10 catches for 197 yards and 2 touchdowns and Keenan Brooks would have 5 catches for 60 yards. Hayden Cherry would lead the way on defense with 2 interceptions and also a fumble recovery on a kickoff as the Tigers defense would force 4 turnovers in the second half. Saluda will face Barnwell Friday night at 5 p.m. at Benedict College for the 2019 AA State Championship.