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Austin Gastineau intercepted a Salem pass with just under 2 minutes left on the game clock at Salem last Friday night to give the Ava Bears a chance, but the game would end with the Bears driving to the goal line, sealing a 23-20 SCA win for the Tigers.
With the win the Tigers improved their record to 5-0 while the Bears fell to 2-3 on the year. However, the Bears presumably have the toughest part of their schedule behind them while Salem still has to face the likes of Mtn. View-Liberty and Mtn. Grove, in conference play.
The Bears will be home this week for Homecoming, hosting the Houston Tigers.
Salem received the opening kickoff Friday night and kept the ball for half the quarter, advancing the ball 67 yards in 13 plays. The end result was somewhat of a victory for the Bears as Salem had to settle for a field goal with 6:08 left on the first quarter clock.
Ava’s defense stopped the Tigers at the 10-yard line, and Wynton Kube nailed the 28-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. Unfortunately for the Bears, those three points would prove to be the deciding margin in the game.
Salem’s celebration was short-lived because the Bears would line up at the 20-yard line after a touchback, and on the first play from scrimmage, senior Caleb Miles exploded through the line and sprinted 80 yards to score. Ava’s drive went 80 yards but only ran 14 seconds off the clock. Ben Loge’s kick was no good and the Ava lead was 6-3.
Each team would run another series before the quarter ended, but with no more scoring.
Salem took a 9-6 lead at 6:49 in the second period on an 8-yard run by Brady Floyd. Kube’s kick was no good.
The Tigers would score again on a 4-yard run by Zayne Kyser with 3:17 on the second quarter clock and Kube’s kick increased Salem’s lead to 16-6.
Ava’s Bears would not give in, however, and with 29 seconds left on the clock, Loge passed to Miles for an 11-yard touchdown pass play. Loge’s kick trimmed the Salem lead to 16-13 at halftime.
Each team handled the ball one time in the third quarter, with the Bears taking the opening kickoff of the second half and running 6½ minutes off the clock before turning the ball over on downs. Ava’s 16-play drive covered 57 yards and resulted in the Bears running out of downs at the 23-yard line of Salem.
Salem took over there and ran the remaining minutes off the clock in the third quarter, and continued into the fourth, scoring at 10:49 on a 1½ yard run by Kyser. Kube’s kick put Salem on top 23-13.
Once again the Bears would control the ball for another sustained drive down the stretch that would end with a 2-yard quarterback keeper by Loge with 5:24 left in the game. The junior quarterback/kicker would boot the extra point to set the game’s final score at 23-20.
Ava’s Coach Dan Swofford used all his time-outs on Salem’s final drive and it almost paid off, as Gastineau intercepted a Salem pass and returned the ball to the Ava 38-yard line.
Loge and the Ava offense worked the clock as the Bears moved the ball past midfield into Salem territory. Loge completed a 20-yard pass to Jesse Dean to give the Bears a first down at the Salem 21-yard line with 21 seconds left, but the game would end there when Loge was sacked on the next play when he could not find an open receiver, and the clock ran out.
The Bears had 240 rushing yards and 102 passing, for total offense of 342 yards. Loge completed eight of 17 passes.
Miles carried 13 times for 128 yards and one touchdown and Kyle Clinkingbeard carried 20 times for 87 yards. Loge had four carries for 25 yards and a touchdown.
On the receiving end, Gastineau caught four passes for 38 yards, Miles caught two for 18 yards and a touchdown, Dean caught one for 20 yards and Chance Boyd had one reception for 32 yards.
Defensively, Buster Davis, Zach Taylor and Tristan Haltom each had 10 tackles. Haltom had three tackles for a loss and Taylor had one for a loss. Gastineau had seven tackles and one big interception for the Bears.
Houston, Ava’s opponent this week, has won two games this season, breaking a 22-game losing streak. Coach Swofford knows he cannot let his Bears take the Tigers for granted, and can only hope that the excitement of Homecoming will have his Bears fired as they move into the second half of the season.
Salem fans knew their team had won a major victory Friday night. When the final horn sounded, the Tiger fans stormed the field like their team had just won a state championship.