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Salem in must-win situation
Seminoles need victory to stay in 8-AAAA race

CONYERS - It's safe to say that Salem is looking for a little redemption tonight against Cedar Shoals at Seminole Stadium.

After all, the Seminoles are looking to get back on the winning track after last week's disappointing 22-21 loss in the final seconds at Clarke Central in Athens.

That defeat ended Salem's three-game win streak and evened its record at 3-3 with four weeks left in the season.

But now, the Seminoles have a chance to get back in the Region 8-AAAA playoff race against the Jaguars (5-2).

"Our kids have had to be very resilient all year. I feel confident that they will be ready to play (tonight) against Cedar Shoals," Salem coach Chad Estes said. "No doubt about it, it's a playoff game for us."

If Salem could have held on for six more seconds last week, it would be only one game out of first place in Region 8-AAAA.

The Seminoles, however, find themselves tied for fifth with Rockdale at 3-3 and facing a must-win game against the Jaguars.

Last year, the Seminoles clinched the 8-AAAA South title with a 28-10 victory over the Jaguars in Conyers.

"This has developed into a big rivalry for both schools," Estes said. "It should be a great game."

Cedar Shoals' defense has pitched two straight shutouts - a 6-0 win over Rockdale last Friday and a 44-0 victory Monroe Area two weeks ago. All told, the Jaguars have surrendered only 55 points in seven games.

So Salem's offense will have to find a way to move the ball effectively against the Jaguars - something that has not been easy to do. Last week, Rockdale only managed 80 total yards and three first downs.

"They are big and physical on defense. They can run to the football," Estes said. "They like to blitz. We are going to have to make plays on offense.

"We will have to be able to run the ball on offense and eliminate penalties. We cannot give up the big play on defense. Of course, our special teams will have to continue to play well."

Last week, Salem's special teams made key contributions against Clarke Central.

JoJo Smith scored on a 79-yard punt off a reverse, and he also recovered a short opening kickoff deep in Clarke Central territory, which led to Salem's first touchdown of the game.

Trailing four teams in the region standings, Salem cannot afford a fourth loss. The Seminoles only have one game left after tonight with the four front-runners in Region 8-AAAA - against Apalachee in the regular-season finale Nov. 7 in Conyers.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

Who: Cedar Shoals at Salem

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Seminole Stadium

Series: Cedar Shoals leads 4-2

Last meeting: Salem won 28-10 last year