The Salem Spartans will be hitting the road this Friday night as they take on George Washington High School of Danville in a Class 4, Region D semifinal game. Game time is 7 pm in Danville, and it looks like a good one.
The Eagles come in at 10-1 after blasting Amherst in their playoff opener last Friday, 43-18. Danville led 36-6 after three quarters as Salem fans listened for updates on the public address system at Salem Stadium while the Spartans were hammering Charlottesville in their opener, 70-34. Salem fans knew if Amherst pulled an upset this week’s semifinal would be back in Salem, but it wasn’t to be. Instead Spartan fans will fill their tanks with gas and head to Danville in droves this Friday.
“I’ve never been there but I know they have good support,” said Salem coach Stephen Magenbauer of George Washington High.
Salem’s only previous game with GW was in 2014, when the Spartans took a 49-28 win over the Eagles at Salem Stadium in the third round of the Group 4A playoffs. Salem went on to the finals that year, losing to Lake Taylor in the championship game.
This year’s GW team has rolled through the season with a stout offense. Their only common opponent with Salem is Amherst, and ironically that’s the team that gave the Eagles their only loss. They were beaten by Amherst on September 1, 55-45, but avenged the loss with the win over the Lancers in the playoffs last week. Salem beat Amherst 38-24 in the season opener for both, a week before the Lancers beat Danville.
GW has rolled up some big numbers this year. Last week was the first time all year the Eagles scored fewer than 45 points, and they only missed it by two. They put 70 on the board twice, they’ve been in the 50’s three times and in the ‘60s twice. They beat Jefferson Forest in a shootout, 57-56.
“They have a tall quarterback(Carlos Poole) and some real athletes,” said Magenbauer. “Their quarterback is 6’3” and he can throw, but he likes to run. Everything goes through him on the offense.”
Magenbauer said the Eagles also have a couple good backs and a few good receivers, including Shawn Watlington. Salem will have to play better in the secondary than they did last week, or at least score 70 points again.
Last Friday at Salem Stadium the Spartans couldn’t be stopped on offense, but had a hard time stopping Charlottesville’s passing attack. The Black Knights had 386 passing yards and four touchdown passes covering 56, 72, nine and 67 yards.
“We had some blown assignments,” said Magenbauer, who covered his eyes during one long play as a Charlottesville receiver ran for another TD. It was reminiscent of the Patrick Henry game, which Salem won 56-42 despite not being able to stop the Patriots passing game.
“I have confidence in our kids that we’ll play well this week,” said Magenbauer. “Charlottesville had a good quarterback who could run and throw, and he was very good at play action. We have faith in our guys that we’ll get it done this week.”
While the Spartans couldn’t stop Charlottesville’s passing game, the Knights couldn’t stop Salem’s running game. Senior De’Angelo Ramsey rushed 18 times for 360 yards and five touchdowns. He had over 300 yards and all five scores in the first half alone as the Spartan line opened up big holes and Ramsey ran over and past defenders with relative ease.
“Our offensive line did a good job,” said Magenbauer. “They packed everyone in, and if De’Angelo broke clear there weren’t a lot of guys to tackle him.”
Tae Hale was the only other back with as many as four carries, and he had one rushing TD. Jack Gladden was nine for 11 passing for 162 yards and he had TD passes of 35 and 20 yards to Joseph Quinn and a nine yard TD pass to Hale. Of Gladden’s only two incompletions, one was a strike to the end zone that would have been a sure touchdown had it not been dropped. Quinn finished with three catches for 86 yards, Viante Tucker had four for 54 and Nathan Delby had a catch for 12 yards.
Salem comes into this week’s game relatively healthy. The other region semifinal finds E.C. Glass at Blacksburg. Glass beat William Byrd, 31-7, and Blacksburg hammered Jefferson Forest, 54-6. If Salem and Blacksburg both win this week they’ll play at Blacksburg the day after Thanksgiving. If Salem and Glass win, the Hilltoppers would come here.
“We’re just enjoying playing football right now,” said Magenbauer. “At this point of the season the kids don’t get tired.”