Believe it or not, Salem is halfway through the regular season in football. The Spartans improved to 3-0 in the abbreviated winter-spring season with a 35-17 win over Patrick Henry last Friday at Salem Stadium.
At 3-0 the Spartans stand atop the Region 4D rankings with a 24.0 rating. Not surprisingly Pulaski County is second, also at 3-0, with a 22.6 ranking. The top four teams in the region make the playoffs this year and, in the case of Region 4D, the top seed would be home through the state semifinals if it would continue to win.
Salem is off this Friday but two games follow the Spartans figure to win, at Bogle Field against Cave Spring on March 19 and Hidden Valley on March 26. Certainly you don’t want to count your chickens before they hatch, but Cave Spring is fifth in Region 3D at 1-1 and Hidden Valley is ninth at 0-2. If either would beat Salem it would be an upset of major proportions.
The six game regular season will likely come down to the April 2nd game with Pulaski County at Salem Stadium. In the meantime the Cougars have to play a weak Blacksburg team and a Patrick Henry team, in Dublin, that could give them some trouble.
Salem’s 35-17 win over the Patriots last Friday was a solid victory, but the Spartans failed to score in the second half after tailback and linebacker Zavione Wood went out with a finger injury. Wood figures to be back for the next game but after leading 35-9 at the half the Patriots showed some spunk after intermission.
“We didn’t make the throws we needed to make to move the chains,” said Salem coach Don Holter. “We punted more times in the second half than we did in the previous two games combined, but I’m not worried. They gave us a few different looks and we have two weeks to work things out. Hats off to PH.”
The first half was all Salem. Shawn Collins scored the first touchdown on a beautifully thrown 19 yard pass play from Chauncy Logan, Jr. Then, on Patrick Henry’s ensuing possession, Collins picked off a pass at the Patriot 37 and took it to the house to give the Spartans a 14-0 lead.
The Patriots answered with a one yard run by Roy Gunn but Salem put it away in the second quarter. Cam Leftwich had a four yard run for a TD, then Logan hooked up with Jorden McDonald for a 79 yard score to make it 28-7. Wood’s 10 yard run finished out Salem’s scoring and Wesley Cross was perfect on all seven extra points.
Wood finished with 105 yards rushing on nine carries before leaving while Leftwich had 76 yards on 15 attempts. Carson Williams had 18 yards and Jamien Lingenfelter, a sophomore, had 16.
Logan completed just four of 14 attempts but two of them went for touchdowns and the four completions accounted for 141 yards. In addition to the two touchdowns Jayden McDonald had a 20 yard reception and Wood caught one pass for 17 yards.
Defensively, Noah Collins led Salem with 18 total tackles, including eight solos. Williams and Ky’Juan Waller had five each and Waller had two sacks, two hurries and a tackle for a loss. Shawn Collins had two picks and Chase Greer had one.
“I was pleased,” said Holter. “Our physicality increased and our execution got better, especially with our special teams. We have two weeks to work on things and get ready for a tough stretch drive.”
Salem’s jayvee team beat PH last week, 26-6. The jayvees will host Franklin County tonight.