Saluda coach Stewart Young knows his team must have a different sense of urgency this week.
The Tigers fell to Abbeville, then surprisingly lost a region game to Batesburg-Leesville, which bumped Saluda down to No. 3 in Region 2-2A. That region finish sets up a home game against Blacksburg in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs.
“I think our guys are ready to bounce back,” Young said. “We just hope their minds are ready. We’ve tried everything we can do to keep them confident. We hope we’ll bounce back and try to get them on the winning track.
“If not, it’s all over. The sense of urgency is different now. It’s just different. There’s no, ‘We’ll get ‘em next week.’”
Saluda finished the regular season 8-3 and now looks to continue a run of solid showings in the playoffs. Saluda has made at least the third round of the playoffs each of the past four seasons.
One major reason for last Friday’s loss was injuries. Saluda missed two key players on defense, and it showed. The Tigers conceded long scoring drives by Batesburg-Leesville.
When Saluda couldn’t capitalize on the few possessions it had on offense, it led to an upset loss. The Tigers only had three possessions in the second half in that game.
“Just got to do a better job defensively,” Young said. “If we’re going to make a run in the playoffs and win some games, we got to get healthy on our defense.”
Saluda running back Montrevious Baker recorded 220 yards rushing despite the team’s trouble handling time of possession.
Young said the team will likely have all its key players back healthy for Friday’s first round. Young has no doubt Saluda will be ready heading into the playoffs.
“I think we understand the importance of it and we’re a veteran team in that regard,” Young said. “I think it feels very similar. Obviously, coming off a heart-breaking loss, that’s the difference. It’s just got a different feel about it. You’re not as high going into it.”
Blacksburg finished the regular season 6-4 with a third-place finish in Region 1-2A. The Wildcats enter the first round also coming off a loss, a 35-20 defeat to St. Joseph’s.
Saluda and Blacksburg have one common opponent: Southside Christian. Blacksburg lost to Southside Christian 35-0, while Saluda lost to Southside Christian 16-13.
Young looks forward to moving past a disappointing end to the regular season with Friday’s game.
“After a play or two, nobody’s going to worry about that,” Young said. “It doesn’t matter if you won or you lost. We’re ready to get into it.”