The Salem High football team will be home Friday night to host George Washington of Danville in the Region 4D final, and if the Spartans play their best game the Eagles might be in trouble.
Salem comes in at 11-1 and the top seed in the region, and every week coach Don Holter declares that the Spartans haven’t played their best game yet. Well, last Friday there was little to complain about from the Salem side as the Spartans pounded visiting Louisa County, 55-7, in the region semifinal. If they can play better than that, look out birds.
“We played well, but we still haven’t played our best game,” said Holter. “I thought our team executed pretty well and showed focus and discipline, which we talk about every single day. We can still do better. You can say I’m proud but not satisfied.”
Salem couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. The Spartans kicked off to the Lions and forced a punting situation, only to have Louisa fake the punt and pick up a first down. After three more plays the Lions punted for real and the ball rolled dead on the Salem 13.
On first down Cameron Leftwich found a big hole up the middle, and once he got through the line there were no Lions to be found. Leftwich roared up the field for an 87 yard touchdown as Jake Massey, Landon Miles and George Copeland combined to set him free.
“They did a great job of blocking, and the safety rotated and there was no one there,” said Holter.
Louisa went nowhere on the Lions’ second possession and punted again. This time Chase Greer returned the kick to the Louisa 37, and on first down Salem quarterback DaRon Wilson hit Chauncey Logan, Jr with a perfect pass beyond the secondary and Logan hauled it in for the score. Halfway through the first quarter Salem had a 14-0 lead the Spartans had only run two offensive plays.
“It’s always huge to get that early lead,” said Holter.
Greer intercepted a Louisa pass on the next series to thwart the Lions, and Salem led 14-0 heading into the second period. The Spartans scored 21 more points in that quarter as Leftwich ran in from the six after catching a pass and then went up the gut for 38 yards for a 28-0 lead. Louisa scored late in the half but the Spartans weren’t satisfied with a 28-7 halftime lead. Wilson found Logan again for a 15 yard score with just 16 seconds until intermission and the Spartans went into the locker room with a 35-7 advantage.
The second half, much like the first, was all Salem. Leftwich scored on another 38 yard run, twisting over the goal line with two Lions hanging on for dear life. That set the clock running continuously with a 35 point lead at 42-7.
Leftwich’s fourth and final TD of the night came with five seconds remaining in the third period after Nathaniel McClure recovered a Louisa fumble at the Lions’ 31 yard line. Cam completed the short drive with a one yard run, his 28th rushing touchdown of the season and 29th overall.
Isaiah Barlow added a fourth quarter touchdown on a short run and Holter let the reserves finish out the win. Leftwich finished with 188 yards on 12 carries, Barlow had 81 yards on 10 attempts and Jayveon Jones had 29 yards on the ground.
Wilson was three for six passing but was very efficient as all three completions went for touchdowns, two to Logan and one to Leftwich.
On defense Noah Collins led the Spartans with 20 tackles. McClure had 15, Jaelyn Allen had 13 and Cameron Martindale had seven. Greer and Logan had interceptions.
The Spartans are back at home this Friday to take on an opponent who has become familiar, although not on the regular season schedule. Salem has spoiled George Washington’s hopes three times in the past four seasons in the region playoffs. In 2017 Salem won in Danville, 42-13, and in 2019 the Spartans won 48-21 in Salem. During the abbreviated spring season the Spartans hosted GW in the Region 4D final and won, 35-21, at Salem Stadium.
This fall George Washington comes to Salem with a 9-1 record. After losing their opener to E.C. Glass, 42-32, the Eagles have ripped off nine straight, losing a couple games due to COVID concerns. Their two playoff wins were both at home, 63-21 over Orange County and 40-8 over Western Albemarle last week.
“They have good size and outstanding skill people,” said Holter. “Their quarterback returned and coach (Nick) Anderson does a good job coaching them up.”
If the Spartans play their best game, that might not matter.