Storm's bend-but-don't-break defense holds stout
ARCOLA — The area's longest regular season winning streak is still intact.
The Salt Fork Storm made state-ranked Arcola its 16th consecutive regular season victim, opening with an 18-2 nonconference win Friday at Thomas Bradford Field.
Junior Taylor Kirby, in his varsity starting debut at quarterback, scored two touchdowns within a 3 1/2-minute stretch of the second quarter and fired a TD pass to Nick Hedges in the final minute.
"TK played very well for his first time out," Salt Fork coach Brian Plotner said. "There are some things we wish we'd done better, but we made some progress."
Salt Fork turned the ball over on two of its first three possessions, but the Storm's defense held Arcola's potent running attack to 25 first-half yards rushing and 39 overall on 34 attempts.
"We have a long way to go, but it's a good start," Plotner said. "We had a very bad defensive practice Wednesday, and I wasn't overly confident how we'd do."
In the final analysis, the veteran coach was pleased.
"The defense showed a lot of will and toughness," Plotner said. "Sometimes, they were too energized, but our mantra will be 'Play with passion.' "
Kirby led all players with 103 yards rushing on 19 carries. The left-hander also completed three passes for 52 yards.
The Salt Fork defense kept Arcola out of the end zone on possessions where the Purple Riders had first downs at the Storm 9-, 31-, 34- and 35-yard lines.
"We were fortunate to avoid some things when we had field position issues," Plotner said. "Both teams will be better down the road. We may see them again." Arcola scored on a safety with 7:43 remaining when Salt Fork snapped the ball out of the end zone while in punt formation.
"Our defense was solid," Arcola coach Gerald Temples said. "The main problem was we didn't get it done in the running game. We have to get some corrections made offensively this next week.
"You don't correct things by talking. You correct things by rolling your sleeves up and saying this is what we have to do."
Omar Rojas led Arcola with 30 yards rushing on 17 carries. Jose Tamez completed 5 of 15 passes — all to different receivers — for 27 yards. Arcola had 66 total yards.