SALADO — Every Eagle that suited up for Salado and Fairfield’s regular-season finale Friday night knew their season extended into the playoffs. That much had been decided.
However, there was still unfinished business to attend to as far as postseason seeding was concerned.
With the third and fourth seeds in District 8-4A-II still up for grabs, the question became which Eagles squad would seize the opportunity. And with a 21-all score at halftime, players and coaches on both sidelines were left in ambiguity heading into the break.
It didn’t take long for Salado to seize control of the game, and the district’s No. 3 seed, once action resumed.
Salado outscored Fairfield 21-0 after halftime en route to a 42-21 win to finish the year undefeated on its new turf field and bounce back from a loss at Mexia last week.
Reid Vincent ran for 200 yards and a touchdown for Salado, Hunter Turk finished with 131 yards rushing and a pair of scores, and the Salado defense held Fairfield scoreless on its two second-half drives.
“Defensively, we had to make some halftime adjustments,” said fourth-year Salado head coach Alan Haire, who has his alma mater back in the playoffs for the third time in his tenure. “We were able to penetrate better in the second half.
“It’s called pressure. The reason we have pressure is because we’ve been halfway successful this season. When you’re successful, every game brings more pressure, but that’s what you want as a competitor. We viewed this game as, ‘Can you handle the pressure?’”
Salado (7-3, 4-2) will play Rusk (3-7), which finished second in District 7-4A-II, in a bi-district game at 7:30 p.m. next Friday in Corsicana to begin its playoff run.
After getting to halftime tied at 21 — thanks to two keepers by Salado quarterback Hutton Haire and a 1-yard TD run by teammate Noah Mescher — Salado took the lead on the opening possession of the second half, needing only five plays and less than 2 minutes. Salado got a 37-yard run by Reid Vincent that opened the third quarter and got Salado inside the red zone. Turk scored from 2 yards out four plays later to give Salado a 28-21 lead early.
Fairfield (6-4, 3-3) drove to the Salado 11 on its next series but failed to convert a fourth down and the host Eagles regained possession.
Salado widened the gap with an 11-play, 91-yard drive that took more than 4 minutes and ended with a 38-yard run by Vincent for a 35-21 advantage with just more than 3 minutes left in the third.
“(Salado) just played a really good game tonight. Coach Haire does a great job over there and his players don’t quit,” Fairfield head coach John Bachtel said. “We struggled with tackling. If we make a few extra tackles, they don’t break off as many of those runs.”
Fairfield got the ball back with 2:55 left in the third, needing an answer while trailing by 14. Salado gave up just 10 yards on seven plays and forced a punt, and then orchestrated one final long, time-consuming drive.
Salado took over at Fairfield’s 24 with less than a minute remaining in the third and tallied four first downs over the next 7 minutes to go up 42-21. The drive covered 76 yards in 13 plays and provided the nail in the coffin with Turk’s 3-yard TD run.
Fairfield then failed to pick up a first down and punted for the second straight possession before Salado ran out the clock and headed into the postseason on a positive note.
SALADO 42, FAIRFIELD 21
Fairfield 14 7 0 0 — 21
Salado 14 7 14 7 — 42
Fai — Jar-Mychael Hudson 4 run (Tyler Haynes kick)
Sal — Hutton Haire 2 run (Wrook Brown kick)
Sal — Noah Mescher 1 run (Brown kick)
Fai — Justin Abram 1 run (Haynes kick)
Sal — Haire 1 run (Brown kick)
Fai — Eli Martin 3 run (Haynes kick)
Sal — Hunter Turk 2 run (Brown kick)
Sal — Reid Vincent 38 run (Brown kick)
Sal — Turk 3 run (Brown kick)
First downs 10 28
Rushes-yards 33-222 67-462
Passing yards 10 10
Comp.-Att.-Int. 2-6-0 1-2-0
Punts-average 2-31 0-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-55 6-55
RUSHING — Fairfield: Abram 14-103, Hudson 12-98, Martin 7-21; Salado: Vincent 18-200, Turk 24-131, Brown 9-74, Greg Washington 2-14, Mescher 6-13, Haire 4-13, Gaige Oudekerk 2-13, Blake Volk 1-4.
PASSING — Fairfield: Abram 2-6-0-10; Salado: Haire 1-2-0-10.
RECEIVING — Fairfield: DeQuann McWilliams 2-10; Salado: Turk 1-10.