Salina South entered Friday night in hopes of claiming its second victory of the season.
The turnover bug got in the way.
Owen Bulleigh’s two-point conversion run was an inch away from the goal line and the Cougars couldn’t overcome seven turnovers in a 42-41 heartbreaking defeat to Newton at Salina Stadium. The Cougars dropped to 1-5 on the season while the Newton Railers picked up their first win. In fact, it was Newton’s first win over Salina South in program history.
The game’s opening drive set the tone for South as sophomore quarterback Weston Fries was intercepted by Jonah Remsberg. Salina South’s defense didn’t budge, forcing a Newton punt that was returned by senior Jackson Hayes to the Railer 24-yard line. Four plays later, Bulleigh ran found the end zone from five yards out, giving South an early 7-0 advantage.
South’s next drive started with a 57-yard pass to sophomore Te’Jon McDaniel. The ensuing play was a swing pass that wasn’t caught, but ruled a fumble for the second Cougar turnover. Bulleigh took the ball back for Salina South, interception a Ben Schmidt pass in Newton territory. The senior, filling in for injured Brandt Cox, scored again from five yards away, putting South on top 14-0 with 3:29 to play in the opening quarter.
Newton answered with a 74-yard TD pass by Schmidt to Peyton Maxwell. Salina South drove to Newton territory on the following drive, but Fries was picked off again by Remsberg to start the second. Fortunately, South’s defense forced another punt, allowing South to increase the margin to 14 again on a 17-yard TD connection featuring Fries and McDaniel.
The remaining 8:32 of the half belonged to Newton. Following Remsberg’s third interception of the half, Newton struck with a 45-yard TD pass by Schmidt to receiver Xzavion Martin. A rare South punt allowed the Railers to score once more, this time on a 21-yard run by tailback Kenyon Forrest with 3:28 to go in the half.
Salina South would get inside the Newton 20 on a pass to senior Zach Davidson. However, he lost the ball, allowing Newton to seize control on a 12-yard pass from Schmidt to Maxwell, propelling the Railers to a 28-21 lead at intermission.
Offense dominated the third period as the frame featured four consecutive scoring drives, starting with Friess’ 11-yard pass to Hayes. Newton’s response – a 71-yard pass to Forrest. Following a 74-yard reception by Hayes, junior Jarrett Pittenger plunged into the end zone for a two-yard score. Newton jumped back ahead on a 16-yard scamper from Schmidt, making the score 42-35 with 1:32 left in the third.
The scoring streak ended when Fries opened the fourth with an interception. The Cougars had another chance to tie up the game, but on the second play of the next drive, Bulleigh lost control of the ball for the last South turnover.
Newton took time off the clock on an 11-play drive that set up a 4th and inches. The Railers tried to draw South offsides. Instead of receiving a penalty, Newton tried a 35-yard field goal that was wide left, leaving the door open for a South comeback with 5:44 to play.
Salina South would face a 4th and 21 after back-to-back negative plays in Newton territory. Fries danced out of the pocket and delivered a 26-yard TD pass to senior AJ Johnson with 1:28 remaining. Bulleigh tried to give South the advantage, but was ruled down an inch shy of the end zone to close the game.
Bulleigh ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Fries threw for 395 yards and three touchdowns, but was picked off four times.
Salina South turns around to face Salina Central in the Battle of the Mayor’s Cup. Pregame coverage begins at 6:45 pm on Y93.7 and 1150 KSAL.