By Brian Hoffman
Salem is back on top in Region 4D. Salem’s win over Pulaski County last Friday, combined with a loss by Orange County, allowed the Spartans to pass Orange and take over the top position in the current Virginia High School League Region 4D rankings.
The Spartans took care of business with a 49-14 win over Pulaski County in last Friday’s Homecoming game. That wasn’t all that big a surprise, but when the score came in that Louisa County clobbered Orange, 49-7, that was somewhat of a surprise if not for the result but for the score. Orange was previously undefeated and the top ranked team in the region.
Salem, at 6-1, is now on top with a 25.57 ranking, followed closely by 5-1 E.C. Glass at 25.16. Louisa remains in third at 25.14 with a 7-0 record and Orange, at 4-1, drops to fourth at 23.4. Amherst is 5-1 after suffering its first loss to Glass last Friday and is now fifth at 22.5 and everyone else in the region has at least three losses.
It’s still early, but this is important as the Spartans have an excellent chance to win out and hold on to the top spot. That means they would be at home for every region game as long as they keep winning, and coach Don Holter would much rather play at Salem Stadium.
“It’s huge,” said Holter. “We’d much rather play at home than get on bus and drive who knows how many hours.”
The Spartans looked like a top-ranked team in their decisive win over Pulaski County last week as they beat the Cougars for the 14th straight time. Salem struck first on a 23 yard scoring pass from DaRon Wilson to Josiah Moyer but Pulaski answered with a long drive deep into Spartan territory. However, the Cougars fumbled the ball away on the Salem 13 as Chris Martin stripped the ball and Moyer recovered. Wilson then found Jonathan Vernon open for an 87 yard TD hookup and Salem led 14-0 after one quarter.
Pulaski cut the lead to 14-7 with just under nine minutes to go before the half, only to have Peyton Lewis return the ensuing kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. Salem missed the extra point, and the Cougars pulled within six at 20-14 on a TD run with a minute and a half left in the first half and it was looking like a ballgame.
The turning point came on Salem’s next possession. With time running out the Spartans quickly moved to the Pulaski 17, then Wilson threw a jump ball to the corner and Moyer outwrestled the Cougar defender for the pig for a killer touchdown with just three seconds on the clock. Wesley Cross converted and Salem went into the locker room up 27-14.
The second half was all Salem. The Spartans scored 22 unanswered points in the third quarter on a 15 yard Wilson to Jayveon Jones pass and two long runs by Lewis, one of 74 yards and another of 46. Wilson passed to Jaelyn Allen for a two point conversion after Peyton’s first TD run to make up for the missed extra point in the first half, and the clock ran continuously in the fourth quarter.
Wilson had a big night passing for Salem, hitting 13 of 15 attempts for 207 yards and four TDs. He also ran four times for 53 yards.
Lewis picked up 135 yards rushing on just four carries and scored twice on runs and once on the kickoff return. Once he gets in the open there’s no catching the state Class 4 100 meter dash champion.
“Collectively, we have some boys who run really well,” said Holter. “I’m pleased to see Peyton also embrace the physicality of the tailback position.”
Vernon had three catches for 120 yards and a score while Moyer had two catches, both for TDs. Jones ran for 51 yards and caught a 15 yard TD pass while Chris Cole had two catches for 27 yards.
On defense Isaiah Barlow had 16 tackles, including five for losses, and Allen had 15. Lewis had 11 tackles and caused a fumble.
This week, Salem has a bye before returning to action October 21 with a home game against Cave Spring. The jayvees are also off after defeating Pulaski 36-28.
“We’ll focus on us for a few days then start preparing for Cave Spring,” said Holter.