BY WILL CHANDLER

Special to the Journal

SALTILLO - New Hope head coach Michael Bradley may not be mistaken for Leonidas anytime soon.

But just as the Greek king infamously led his 300 Spartans to victory over the vast army of the Persians, Bradley rallied his band of Trojans to a season-opening 17-14 win over Saltillo despite dressing out just 25 players.

The win for New Hope (1-0) equaled the Trojans' total from a year ago and spoiled the debut for new Tigers head coach Greg May.

Saltillo (0-1) appeared to tie the game with 1:41 left when Brooks Baumann drilled a 38-yard field goal. But an illegal procedure penalty against the Tigers wiped away the points. Baumann's try from 43 yards was blocked by Nick Dowdy, setting off a wild celebration on the Trojans' sideline.

New Hope sophomore Emmitt Rice's 2-yard touchdown plunge and subsequent two-point conversion run with 8:43 remaining proved to be the game winner.

Despite four turnovers, including three fumbles deep in Saltillo territory, New Hope persevered with a punishing ground attack that churned out 232 yards on the ground.

Trailing 14-3 at the half, New Hope quarterback Josh Ferguson returned from an injury that sidelined him the much of the first half, and helped engineer an offense that found a rhythm in the second half.

"I'm proud of our kids for their effort," Bradley said. "We had a lot of things go against us, had some turnovers that cost us, but we kept fighting and hung in there. I want to give all the credit to Saltillo.

"They were really laying the wood to us in the first half."

Ty Shirley's 21-yard touchdown jaunt capped a 7-play, 61-yard drive to open the second half and cut the Tiger lead to 14-9.

After Saltillo held the Trojans on downs on consecutive possessions, big runs by Terrance Dentry (21 yards) and Ferguson (17) set up Rice's go-ahead score.

Ferguson led all rushers with 61 yards on 13 carries. Justin Holcomb led Saltillo with 47 yards on seven carries.

Saltillo managed just 138 yards of total offense.

"I thought both teams played well," said May. "They did some things defensively to us that kept us from running the ball. Field position was the key in the game and they got the better of it."

Tiger safety Arsiel Gaston provided fireworks with his weaving 38-yard interception return for a touchdown midway through the second quarter. Xavier Harris gave Saltillo a 14-3 advantage when he hauled in a 12-yard strike from Drew Chisholm.

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