CONYERS - Brandon Hill's big mitt was the difference in overtime for Salem on Friday night at Seminole Stadium.
Hill blocked a Cedar Shoals extra point to lift the Seminoles (4-3) to a 21-20 victory over the Jaguars (5-3) in a key Region 8-AAAA contest.
"It was all heart and will power," Hill said. "I saw hole right there, and thought I needed to come up with a big play. It was a big time to make it, and I made it."
Hill's blocked kick provided the winning margin, but it was the hard running of Corey Nedd that gave Salem the points it needed against a stingy Jaguar defense.
Cedar Shoals came into the game surrendering only 7.9 points a game, but Nedd powered his way into the end zone on three short touchdown runs, including a 5-yarder in overtime.
Nedd carried 23 times for 65 yards and earned every one of them against the Jaguars, who gave up only 97 yards rushing in the game.
"Corey did a lot of hard running for us tonight. I just thought he got in there and was running really tough against them," Salem coach Chad Estes said. "It was the case of going with whoever had the hot hand, and Corey had it this week."
Last week, the Seminoles lost 22-21 in the final seconds at Clarke Central. This week didn't start any better for Salem.
Cedar Shoals' Juron Weldon returned the opening kick off 86 yards for a touchdown just 15 seconds into the contest.
"I'm extremely proud of these guys and how they bounced back this week after (losing) that game last week at Clarke," Estes said. "When Cedar Shoals ran the (opening) kickoff back, it was like last week's game was extended. But after that, I thought we played great football. I know they had a big play at the end to tie it up, but I really felt like we outplayed them over the course of the game."
Another blocked kick, this time a punt, set up Salem's first score. Once again, Hill was involved, recovering the ball at the Jaguar 5.
Three plays later, Nedd scored from 2 yards out to tie the contest with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.
Nedd put Salem in front 14-7 on a 3-yard run with 6:48 left in the secondn
The key play in the six-play, 53-yard drive was quarterback Jarrett Brown's 32-yard pass to Brandon Otey down to the Jaguar 11.
Salem's defense pitched a shutout for the first three quarters, but Cedar Shoals scored late to force overtime.
Deunta Jennings scored from 25 yards out off a double reverse with 1:39 left in the game, cutting Salem's lead to 14-13.
On the extra point, Salem got a piece of Joseph Harrison's kick, but the ball had enough impetus to carry over the goal post, forcing overtime.
In overtime, Nedd carried five straight times to put Salem in front 21-14.
But Cedar Shoals' De De Lattimore answered with an 11-yard touchdown run, which set up Hill's heroics.
"No, we didn't do anything special on the extra points," Estes said. "It was just will on our part. We didn't want to lose, we wanted to win it."
The win puts Salem square in the middle of the Region 8-AAAA playoff race with three weeks to play.
"We just need to take it one game a time," Estes said. "It's such a competitive region. I do feel like our football team is getting better. The kids have really hung in there with a lot of adversity, and I'm just proud of them."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.