CONYERS - Turnovers and the fact that St. Pius played a solid ball-control game were two keys in Salem's 24-0 loss Friday night in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs at Reid Memorial Stadium.
Salem (9-2) lost three of four fumbles, two of which led to scores, while the St. Pius (8-3) kept the Seminole defense on the field with extended drives throughout the game.
"I thought we were evenly-matched, they're a good ball team," Coach Chad Estes said. "We stood toe-to-toe with them but made a couple of mistakes, that one fumble in the first quarter when they got the field goal and then the other one (in the fourth quarter) when they scored the touchdown."
On their first possession, the Seminoles faced a third-and-1 at their 49 but Corey Nedd fumbled on the play.
St. Pius recovered at the 50 and six plays later, Chris Philpott booted a 47-yard field goal to give the Golden Lions a 3-0 lead with 2:48 remaining in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Salem had a chance to turn the tide of the game but the momentum shifted to St. Pius.
St. Pius returner Matt Pierce muffed a Cody Davis punt at midfield. Salem's Dacquery Robertson recovered the loose ball and scampered to inside the St. Pius 10. The play was negated on an inadvertent whistle and Salem was forced to punt again.
The Golden Lions stalled at the Salem 29 on the ensuing drive. Philpott missed a 46-yard field goal attempt with 3:14 remaining in the half.
The Seminoles put together a decent drive to open the second half but on a second-and-6 at the St. Pius 43, JoJo Smith fumbled with St. Pius' Andrew Butler recovering at the 38-yard line.
The Golden Lions again couldn't capitalize as they had to settle for another field goal attempt. This time, Philpott missed on a 47-yard field goal with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, St. Pius put together an eight-play, 67-yard drive that ended when Cole Moon scored on a 15-yard run with 10:09 remaining.
On their next possession, the Seminoles faced a fourth-and 16 at the St. Pius 42. Salem decided to go for it but Terrance Davis was sacked for a 9-yard loss.
With 3:12 remaining, Moon scored on a 3-yard run to give St. Pius a 17-0 lead.
Salem coughed up the ball on the first play of its next drive. Alex Miller took a hard hit and fumbled with Kyle Cleland recovering for St. Pius at the Salem 14.
Two plays later, Moon scored on a 2-yard run with 2:36 remaining. Moon led all rushers with 76 yards on 19 carries.
Salem had 90 total yards (50 rushing, 40 passing) and seven first downs. Salem had just one first down in the first half.
St. Pius had 237 yards (189 rushing, 58 passing) and 17 first downs.
"Our kids played hard," Estes said. "(St. Pius is) a ball-control type offense but our kids kept battling. No matter what the outcome, our kids had a great season."