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Salisbury pulls away from Central

Salisbury's Keion Adans wraps up Central Davidson's Will Ramsey. (Photo by Photo by Jon C. Lakey, Salisbury Post)

SALISBURY | Saig Skeen stormed through to block a punt, recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown and it looked like Central Davidson’s breakthrough season might have another special evening on tap.

And it was — for a half.

Then the reality of Salisbury closed in on the Spartans.

Justin Ruffin ran for 216 yards and caught a long touchdown pass from Brian Bauk as Salisbury pulled away for a 42-14 win over the Spartans in their second-round 2-AA state playoff game on Friday at Ludwig Stadium.

Central (7-6) had rallied for a thrilling 47-46 win over Forest Hills in the first round, the program’s first state playoff win since 1986. The Spartans led 7-0 after Skeen’s big play and it was 14-14 at halftime.

But is was all Salisbury in the second half.

“I know the community is proud of them,” said Central coach Brad Morton. “What we’ve done the last two years hasn’t been done at our school in a long time. The seniors should be very proud of what they’ve done.”

Salisbury (10-3) advanced to next Friday’s third round at High Point Andrews, which routed West Stokes 31-0.

The Hornets got there with a dazzling array of firepower on both sides of the ball. Ruffin got his yards on just 10 carries while Bauk added 100 yards on only nine carries. All told, Salisbury amassed 483 yards.

Salisbury’s defense was even better, holding Central to 240 yards, including just 52 in the second half. Skeen, who became Central’s career rushing leader on the last game of the regular season and entered Friday’s contest with a school single-season record 2,308 yards, was held to 68 yards on 18 carries.

“We knew we had to stop them and I thought our plan worked good,” said Salisbury coach Joe Pinyan. “They had the one touchdown on a blocked punt and on the other one we blew a couple of assignments. But I thought our defense played a great football game.”

It took the Hornets a little over a minute to drive 72 yards after receiving the second half kickoff, with fullback Derek Blackwell scoring on a 12-yard run to give Salisbury a 21-14 lead.

Will Ramsey returned the kickoff 24 yards to the Salisbury 47 and it looked like Central might be in business again. But Skeen was stopped a yard short on fourth-and-seven from the 34.

Ruffin, sprung by a key block from fellow tailback Max Allen, raced 73 yards for a touchdown on the very next play, making it 28-14.

Just like that, the Spartans were staring at a two-touchdown deficit, and were wearing down. Several of Central’s key starters never left the field.

“That’s the first time we’ve had to use that many players both ways,” Morton said. “With the amount of injuries we had, that was going to happen. We put the best team out there that we could. The kids gave a good effort. They never quit.”

But a repeat of Forest Hills wasn’t in the works either as the Hornets scored on consecutive snaps to put it away. The first one was a dagger — a 61-yard scoring strike from Bauk to Allen on third-and-40.

“The third-and-40, I promise you that didn’t come from our playbook,” Pinyan said. “It was just a time when we felt like giving it a shot.”

Salisbury linebacker Clint Comadill intercepted Chris Moore’s pass after Central received the ensuing kickoff. On the next play, Bauk tossed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Ruffin for the game’s final score with seven minutes remaining.

Salisbury answered Skeen’s early special teams play with a four-play, 70-yard drive capped by Ruffin’s 14-yard TD run. Ruffin set that up with a 49-yard scamper that saw him elude a pair of tacklers just past the line of scrimmage.

The Hornets took a 14-7 lead with 9:37 left in the first half on Bauk’s 62-yard scamper.

Central fired back when an interception by Ramsey halted a Salisbury drive. Skeen busted loose for 38 yards, his only big gain of the night, and Desmond Mabe went up the middle for a 39-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 14-14 with 6:54 left in the half.

Then the Spartans held firm with a goal-line stand, keeping it a tie game when Bauk’s pass on fourth-and-goal from the 3 fell incomplete.

“I thought we played well in the first half,” Morton said. “We had that big play on special teams. When we fell behind, we couldn’t change what we do. We had to go with what we had.”

Notes: Andrew Curry kicked both PATs for the Spartans … Mabe had 67 yards on eight carries … Salisbury’s Steven Mazur was 6-for-6 on PATs.

Mike Duprez can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 218 or