It was a wild, successful way to end the regular season for Salem.
There were three touchdowns scored in the final 2 ½ minutes of play when Salem traveled to Cabool Friday. And a 29-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Garrett Connell to senior wideout Luke Campbell with eight seconds remaining, followed by a successful two-point conversion pass, gave the Tigers a 30-26 come-from-behind SCA victory over the Cabool Bulldogs.
Salem wraps up the regular season 2-6 overall and 2-5 in conference play. Cabool falls to 3-6 and lost its final five SCA games to fall to 2-5.
The Tigers will open Missouri Class 3 District 4 action this week by playing a rare Saturday game. The Tigers travel to Priory for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday. Priory is a St. Louis-area Catholic school located in Creve Coeur.
Owensville (7-2) leads the District 4 standings heading into the state playoffs with 41.62 points, while St. Clair (5-3) is No. 2 with 38.68 points, Priory (6-3) No. 3 with 38.51, Sullivan (4-5) No. 4 with 33.57, Westminster Christian (3-6) No. 5 with 32.06, Salem No. 6 with 22.37 and St. James (1-8) No. 7 with 20.6.
Owensville gets a first-round district bye. In other District 4 first-round games Friday, St. Clair hosts St. James, while Sullivan hosts Westminster Christian.
Salem gave itself some momentum entering district competition during its back-and-forth battle with Cabool.
Things didn’t look good for the Tigers after Cabool senior running back Braxton Davis broke several tackle attempts to bust off a 49-yard touchdown run – his third TD of the game – with 36 seconds remaining. Bulldog sophomore quarterback Trey Atkins passed for the two-point conversion to give Cabool a 26-22 advantage.
On the ensuing kickoff Cabool tried a pooch kick, but the ball went out of bounds. Tiger head coach Bryson Barnes elected to make the Bulldogs kick again. This time Cabool attempted an on-side kick, which Connell fielded and returned to midfield.
On the next play Connell scrambled for 18 yards. Salem was staring at a 4th-and-four situation when Cabool jumped offsides for a five-yard penalty, giving the Tigers the first down and helping set up Connell’s TD pass to Campbell.
“On the 4th-and-four we changed the snap count and got them to jump,” Barnes said. “Those last few minutes were crazy. Getting them to jump, the touchdown catch, the conversion pass – everything we had to do to win, we did. I’m really proud of them.”
Salem opened the scoring in the first period when senior running back Jimmy Barton scored on a 10-yard TD run. Connell ran in the two-point conversion.
The Tigers made it 14-0 early in the second period when Connell hit senior wideout Kaden Coffman for a 52-yard breakaway TD pass. The conversion failed.
After intercepting a Connell pass, Cabool got on the scoreboard before halftime when Atkins hit junior wideout Caleb Graven with a 15-yard scoring toss. The conversion failed and Salem went into halftime up 14-6.
The Bulldogs took the lead by scoring two touchdowns in the third period while shutting the Tigers out. Davis scored both third-period TDs on runs of three and seven yards, the latter coming after a Tiger interception.
Salem regained the lead early in the fourth period after Cabool failed on a fake punt attempt. The sustained drive ended when Tiger senior tight end Bradlee Gover caught an 11-yard TD pass from Connell. Connell ran in the conversion to make it 22-18.
“A key point in the game came in the second quarter, when Cabool had a 70-yard run, but he was dropped at the 10 yard line by (junior defensive back) Josh Owen and they didn’t score,” Barnes said. “That was a big effort play.”
The Tigers finished with 337 yards of total offense. Connell rushed for 85 yards on 12 carries, while completing 5-of-14 passes for 128 yards and the three TDs.
Also for Salem, Barton ran for 87 yards on 16 carries, while Coffman caught two passes for 79 yards. Connell led Salem in tackles with 12, including three for losses, while senior lineman Corbin Robertson had 10 tackles and L. Campbell seven tackles and a sack.
The Priory Ravens are coming off a 72-34 loss to Class 2 state-ranked Lutheran St. Charles Saturday. Priory finished second in the Metro League conference standings this season with a 4-1 record, runner-up to unbeaten MICDS.
The Ravens have had a balanced offensive attack, with 1,655 rushing yards and 1,681 passing yards.
Priory’s offense revolves around junior quarterback dual threat Gerard Grewe. Grewe has completed 131-of-203 passes (65%) for 1,673 yards, five interceptions and 18 TDs while rushing for 927 yards (7.0 yards-per-carry) with 16 TDs.
Also for Priory, junior running back Jalen Riad has rushed for 327 yards (7.3) and senior running back Marshall Kee 221 yards (6.3).
Senior wideout Jahaad Fort is the feature receiver for the Ravens, having caught 62 passes for 883 yards and 14 TDs. Also, senior wideout James Wong has 25 catches for 263 yards, senior wideout Drew Steinhubl 16 for 170 and Riad 12 for 130.
Junior defensive back Mark Parent leads the team in tackles with 50 while Fort, also a defensive back, has 40 tackles and four interceptions.
“They have a lot of athleticism; they’re a fast team,” Barnes said of Priory. “They like to throw the ball a lot. I’d compare them to (Mountain View) Liberty, although they probably stretch the ball more. We’ll have to try and match that speed, and we cannot turn the ball over.”
Salem 30, Cabool 26
The score by periods:
Salem 8 6 0 16-30
Cabool 0 6 12 8-26
The scoring plays:
Salem: J. Barton 10-yard run, Connell runs in conversion.
Salem: Coffman 52-yard pass from Connell, conversion fails.
Cabool: Graven 15-yard pass from Atkins, conversion fails.
Cabool: Davis three-yard run, conversion fails.
Cabool: Davis seven-yard run, conversion fails.
Salem: Gover 11-yard pass from Connell, Connell runs in conversion.
Cabool: Davis 49-yard run, Atkins passes for conversion.
Salem: L. Campbell 29-yard pass from Connell, Connell passes to Gover for conversion.
Salem Individual Statistics
Rushing: J. Barton 16 for 87, Connell 12 for 85, L. Campbell 3 for 23, Coffman 1 for 14.
Passing: Connell 5-14-128-3.
Receiving: Coffman 2 for 79, L. Campbell 2 for 38, Gover 1 for 11.
Tackle Leaders: Connell 8 (solo)-4 (assists), L. Campbell 6-1, Robertson 3-7, Newman 3-1, May 2-5.
QB Sacks: L. Campbell 1.