In a packed Longhorn Stadium in Early, the San Saba Armadillos used their ground game to defeat the Wall Hawks, 35-21 last Friday for the first playoff victory since 1987. Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Dillos amassed 190 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the second half.
San Saba won the toss and deferred to give the ball to Wall to start the game. Diego Gonzalez kicked the ball through the end zone to start the game. The Armadillo defense stopped the Hawks on three plays and forced a punt.
Given good field position at the Hawk 43, San Saba looked like they would squander it with a bad snap when the quarterback wasn’t looking from the shotgun. Jack Whitten fell on the ball for a 15-yard loss. A Ryan Pannell pass to Pete Torres gained back the yardage plus enough for a first down at the Hawk 23. Whitten scored on the next play and the Gonzalez PAT gave San Saba the early 7-0 lead.
Wall showed they had a running game. The Hawks used 9 plays to cover 80 yards after the kick. Quarterback Kyle Conaway dove over from 1-yard away. Collin McCrory tied the game with his PAT.
On the Dillos first play, Pannell was sacked and fumbled the ball at the 18. The defense rose to the occasion and stopped the Hawks on downs at the 16.
The San Saba offense failed to get a first down and Max Palacio punted the ball to Wall as the first quarter ended.
The second quarter began with Wall having the ball at the 40. Using six plays, the Hawks took the lead when Brent Rasberry scored on a 33-yard run. McCrory added the PAT and Wall had the 14-7 lead with 9:17 left.
The defenses dominated the next 6:00 of the games. San Saba punted twice and Wall punted once. Wall got the ball with 2:52 left at the Armadillo 42.
The Hawks got to the San Saba 13. A touchdown pass to the corner of the end zone with less than 10 seconds left was called back when the Hawk receiver pushed off the Armadillo defender for offensive pass interference. The ball was pushed back to the 28 and Wall tried a 45-yard field goal that came up short as the half ended. The scoreboard read Wall 14, San Saba 7.
San Saba got the ball to start the second half. The Dillos started at the San Saba 45. Hayden Oliver gained 13 yards and Jack Whitten added 10 to put the ball at the Hawk 32. The following play showed the Hawks what was in store for the remainder of the game. Anthony Salinas broke through the line and outran the defense for a 32-yard touchdown. Diego Gonzalez added the PAT and tied the score at 14-14.
After a short kickoff, Wall started at the 45. The fired-up Armadillo defense held the Hawks on 4th down at the San Saba 49. Nine plays later, Jack Whitten plunged over from the 1 to give the Dillos the lead. The PAT made it 21-14.
Wall started to drive down the field. Jaxon Nevins got a 28-yard gain but the Dillo defense stiffened and stopped the Hawks on 4th down at the 34.
The teams traded punts again and San Saba got the ball early in the final period at the Armadillo 38.
On third down, Gary Gant got free and raced 54 yards for the score. Diego Gonzalez converted the PAT and the 28-14 lead for the Dillos.
The Hawks drove down the field again but the drive ended when Chase Key intercepted a Kyle Conaway pass. A penalty on the return put the ball at the San Saba 10.
Unable to gain a first down, Max Palacio was back to punt. The Hawks were able to block the kick and recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. The PAT by McCrory made the score 28-21 with 4:19 left.
Wall appeared to have stopped San Saba with a 3rd and 19 at the Armadillo 29. Ryan Pannell had other ideas. Pannell connected with Key on a 33-yard pass between two Hawk defenders for the first down at the Wall 38. Three plays later, Anthony Salinas garnered his second touchdown of the half from 25 yards out. The PAT put the score at 35-21with 1:58 to go.
Wall passed its way down the field. Gary Gant put the capper on the game with an interception at the San Saba 2 with 13 seconds left. A kneel-down play and San Saba had its first playoff win since the Armadillos defeated the Reagan County Owls 7-0 in 1987. An interesting side note to this. Hayden Oliver’s uncle Mark was the quarterback on the 1987 team. The quarterback for the Owls then was Scott Lipsey. Lipsey is the uncle of the Hawks twin running backs, Brett and Brent Rasberry.
The Armadillos were led by Anthony Salinas on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Salinas had 74 yards and 2 touchdowns on 7 carries. Jack Whitten had 50 yards and 2 scores, Gary Gant added 76 yards and a score while Oliver contributed 43 yards. Ryan Pannell ended the game with 6 completions in 11 attempts for 94 yards. Chase Key had 2 of the 6 completions for 48 yards. Pete Torres also had 2 receptions for 32 yards. Isaac Jimenez and Gant had a catch each.
Salinas led the defensive charge in stopping the Hawk option, especially in the second half. The interceptions by Key and Gant stopped drives inside the San Saba 10. Chance Gotcher, Whitten, Wil Sloan, Tucker Cromer, Tyler McIntosh, Diego Gonzalez, Torres, Max Palacio and Alex Cervantes made key stops and pass defends during the game.
The other district team also won. Brady downed Jim Ned 42-14 and Comanche scalped Colorado City 52-23.
Brady plays Merkel in Abilene and Comanche draws Henrietta in Mineral Wells. San Saba returns to Longhorn Stadium to battle the Cisco Lobos. Kickoff is set for 7:30 Friday night. The Armadillos will be the visitors this week so come early to watch the Dillos in their playoff drive.