SALADO — Behind a plucky defense and some big-time drives, Lorena stayed in first place in District 8-4A Div. II on Friday night.

The Leopards pulled out a hard-fought 33-13 win over Salado, pulling away with three second-half touchdowns. Lorena moved to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in district with the victory, tied with Connally for the district lead.

A muddy, slippery field awaited the teams at the start of the game, but it was hardly a home-field advantage for the Eagles (3-4, 1-2). Salado fumbled on its first three touches of the game, including a muffed punt that led to a short Leopard TD run by Ben Craig for a quick 7-0 lead.

Salado cut Lorena’s lead to 7-6 with 4:39 left in the first half on Connor Cook’s 4-yard TD run. But the Leopards rallied with a clutch scoring drive before the end of the half, converting several third- and even fourth-down chances before cashing in with a 6-yard TD pass from Bradley Lina to Ty Moore.

Lorena extended its lead to 20-6 after scoring on its first second-half possession. Lina capped off the march with a 3-yard sneak for the TD.

Salado struck in the passing game to trim Lorena’s lead to a touchdown late in the third quarter. Hutton Haire found Wrook Brown on a 29-yard TD connection. But the Leopards finished out strong, outscoring the Eagles, 13-0, in the fourth quarter. Lina had a 1-yard TD run, and later hooked up with Craig on a screen pass that resulted in a 15-yard score.

Lina went 14 for 17 for 166 yards and two TDs through the air in addition to his two short scoring runs.

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