by Brian Hoffman
The Salem High football team dropped from first place to second in the Virginia High School League Region 4D rankings last week without playing a game. The Spartans hope to be back on top after hosting Cave Spring in a big showdown at Salem Stadium this Friday night.
Salem had a bye last Friday while E.C. Glass hammered Jefferson Forest, 55-6. Thanks to some rider points Salem’s rating actually improved in the past week from 25.57 to 26.57, but Glass went from 25.16 to 26.71 to leap frog the Spartans and take the top spot by just 0.14 rating points.
The next three weeks will be critical for the Spartans as they play Cave Spring, a struggling 2-6 Hidden Valley team, and then a big one against Patrick Henry to end the regular season. The Patriots are 5-2 and they’re a Class 5 school, so that will be a good game “pointwise” for the Spartans if they pull off a win. Glass finishes with 4-3 Rustburg at home, at 5-2 Brookville and home with Liberty Christian, who is 7-0 and top-ranked in Region 3D. Top seeding in Region 4D could come down to the final week, with the best scenario for Salem being a win over PH while Glass loses to LCA.
Of course, that’s several weeks away and football coaches want to focus only on the horse directly ahead of them, and that’s Cave Spring. Salem has had two weeks to prepare for the Knights, and coach Don Holter and staff watched them pick up a big win last Friday against Patrick Henry, 34-28.
The Knights have had a strange year. They’re 5-2 and in four of their wins they shut out Hidden Valley and Northside, held Alleghany to seven points and Pulaski County to two. They lost to Glenvar, 10-3, and they also lost to a 2-5 William Byrd team, 35-0. However, there were mitigating circumstances there as Cave Spring assistant coach Chris Askew had died just days prior to that game and the Knights certainly weren’t at their mental peak.
Cave Spring is coached by former Salem quarterback Nick Leftwich. Jeff Leftwich, Nick’s dad, is on the staff and Jeff was a coach for the Spartans through the 2021 spring championship season. He “retired” at that time but was lured back to the field when Nick took the job at Cave Spring.
As expected, you can see a lot of Salem in Cave Spring with Leftwich at the helm. The Knights play hard and establish the run, just like Salem. Cave Spring was 3-7 in Nick’s first year but are much-improved this season.
“They do the little things well,” said Holter. “They pay attention to detail and their offensive line will get after you. I can really see a change in their mental toughness since Nick has been there”
This will be a big game for Cave Spring as well. They’re third in the Region 3D rankings behind Lord Botetourt and Christiansburg and an upset win over Salem would mean big-time points for the Knights.
The Spartans jayvee team will also return to the gridiron after a week off. Salem will play Cave Spring at Bogle Field tonight.