Saline (Mich.) scored with 3:06 remaining and then held off a final drive by Pioneer (Ann Arbor) for a 27-23 victory and its second consecutive district championship.
Pioneer (7-4) had the ball at Saline’s 33-yard-line with 14 seconds to play, but quarterback John Kunec was surrounded and sacked to lock up the victory for No. 19 Saline (10-0).
The Hornets advance in the state Division I playoffs and will face Canton in the regional final next week.
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It was the second meeting of the season between the teams with Saline winning 37-20. The 23 points allowed by Saline were the second-most it has allowed this season; Saline allowed 24 in the season opener.
Saline had taken the lead 20-16 by scoring 14 points in the span of about four minutes in the third quarter. The Hornets scored on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Josh Jackson to Bryce Wolma and then attempted an onside kick. Saline recovered and drove the ball to the 1-yard line. Connor Hibbard scored from there.
In the back-and-forth fourth quarter, Pioneer went ahead on a 3-yard run by Antjuan Simmons.
Pioneer had a chance to add to its advantage thanks to an interception, but Saline held to a three-and-out and got the ball back for what turned out to be the game-winning points.
Hibbard’s 12-yard TD gave Saline the lead with just more than three minutes remaining before stopping Pioneer for the victory.
Hibbard finished with 53 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
For Pioneer, Simmons had 108 yards rushing on eight carries, including this 80-yard TD run in the second quarter.