A battle of Spartans came down to the final seconds last Saturday as the Broad Run Spartans defeated the Salem Spartans, 28-24, in the Class 4 state semifinal football game at Salem Stadium.
It couldn’t have been much closer. Salem had a chance to close out the game on a fourth and 14 on Broad Run’s final drive but Wake Forest bound quarterback Brett Griffis was able to pull a rabbit out of his helmet and engineer a winning drive.
“That quarterback was the best we’ve seen all year,” said Salem coach Don Holter. “Give them credit, their guys were better than our guys on this day.”
But not by much. The Salemites had plenty of chances to win, holding a three point lead with just 2:19 remaining in regulation. That was after Caleb Wright kicked his third field goal of the game, a 35 yarder that put Salem ahead 24-21. Wright has been subbing for injured kicked Wesley Cross and he had a big day Saturday, drilling field goals of 35, 22 and 35 yards to keep Salem in the game while playing center on the offensive line.
“We trust him,” said Holter. “We work with a few kids every day on kicking and Caleb is diligently out there every practice, even before he was the regular kicker.”
Wright’s first field goal made it 7-3 after Broad Run had opened the scoring early in the second quarter on a one yard run by Griffis. It looked like that might be the halftime score, but the Salemites were able to take the lead, 10-7, when DaRon Wilson hit Jake Massey in the end zone for a 12 yard TD strike with just 18 seconds until intermission.
Wright’s second field make it 13-7 in Salem’s favor with 5:27 to go in the third quarter. That lead lasted less than two minutes as the visitors answered with a drive topped off by a 22 yard TD pass from Griffis to Amav Thornhill.
Broad Run was on the move again early in the fourth quarter, looking to expand the lead, when Salem’s Chauncy Logan, Jr. made what could have been the big play of the game had Salem won. He stripped the ball on an end sweep, then picked it up and ran 45 yards for a touchdown as Salem regained the lead. A two point conversion pass from Wilson to Massey made it 21-14 with 10:09 to go.
Broad Run came storming back with a nice drive, with Griffis scoring on a four yard run to tie the game at 21-21 with 7:14 remaining. This smacked of “Mule Time” as Salem took over, hoping to run down the clock and punch in the winning score for a spot in the state championship game. It almost worked, as Salem drove to the red zone where Wright’s third field goal made it 24-20 with just 2:19 remaining.
Unfortunately for the home Spartans, that proved to be too much time. Griffis was able to engineer a final scoring drive, including a fourth and 14 conversion that kept the visitors alive. His 13 yard pass to Kyle Love with 36 seconds remaining left Salem with little time to answer, and Broad Run was able to hold on for the win.
“I’m proud of our kids,” said Holter. “They fought hard for four quarters and had a chance to win. I’m proud to be their coach.”
The Salemites were held to their lowest rushing output of the season, gaining just 111 yards on 36 carries for an average of just over three yards a carry. Cam Leftwich led Salem with 79 on 20 carries but uncharacteristically found little room to maneuver in the middle of the line.
“Give them credit,” said Holter. “They were in the right defense to play us.”
Wilson was nine for 21 passing for 117 yards, with four going to Logan for 73 yards. Jeffrey Phillips had three catches for 22 yards and Massey and Chase Greer had one reception each.
Meanwhile, Broad Run had 128 yards rushing and 245 passing to outgain Salem overall, 373 to 233. Griffis ran for 100 yards in addition to passing for 245 while having a hand in all four Broad Run touchdowns, running for two and passing for two.
Defensively, Noah Collins led the Spartans with 10 tackles, followed by Carson Williams and Greer with nine each. Collins, Nathaniel McClure and Carter McBride, filling in for unavailable standout tackle Cameron Martindale, all had sacks while Logan had an interception and the forced fumble that he recovered for a touchdown as he ended a spectacular high school football career.
“He’s a special kid,” said Holter. “It’s not only what he does on the field, but what he does off the field as well. He’s an outstanding human being.”
Salem finished the season at 12-2, losing their first and last games and picking up a dozen wins in between. In the past three years the 15 seniors have a 34-2 record that includes three regional championships and a state championship.
“I’d say that’s a pretty good body of work,” said Holter, who has been head coach for the past three years. Of the four losses two have been to West Virginia powerhouse Martinsburg and two have been in state semifinal games.
Salem will return 16 seniors and 13 juniors next season, along with undefeated teams at the jayvee and middle school level.
“We’ll take off through Christmas and then we’ll get right back to work,” said Holter. “I’m ready to go right now.”