CONYERS - If last week's 21-20 overtime win over Cedar Shoals was significant for Salem, a victory at Winder-Barrow on Friday is just as, if not more, important.
The Seminoles (4-3) are tied for fifth with Rockdale (4-3) in Region 8-AAAA. But a win over the Bulldoggs (1-6) puts them in prime position to make a legitimate playoff run with just two games left in the regular season.
"Region 8-AAAA is a very competitive region," Salem coach Chad Estes said. "There is no doubt that beating Cedar Shoals was a big win, but we must stay focused and be ready to play the next game."
The good news for the Seminoles is this season has not gone as planned for the Bulldoggs, especially after starting the year 0-5. However, Winder-Barrow continues to play hard, as evidenced last week in a 32-9 loss to Rockdale. And it will pose a viable threat come Friday night despite its lackluster performance.
Against Rockdale, Winder rushed for 179 yards on 31 carries (5.8 yards per carry). Overall, the Bulldoggs chalked up 310 yards of offense.
Kendrick Davis led the special teams unit with five kickoff returns for 125 yards, putting his team in good field position several times.
"Coach (Ben) Corley has a young football team," Estes said. "But you can see them improving every week. We can't afford to take anybody lightly."
But the Seminoles are coming off arguably their biggest win to date, one that ended after defensive end Brandon Hill blocked an extra point in overtime.
Salem's Corey Nedd led the team with 65 yards on 23 carries, including three TDs.
Winder's defense has been suspect this season, allowing 38.3 points per game. Offensively, the Bulldoggs are averaging just over 10 points per game.
Meanwhile, Salem is averaging 14.9 points per game. Its defense has been solid, allowing 15.7.
However, containing Winder means limiting senior quarterback Greg Dixon in the pocket. Against Rockdale, Dixon completed 9 of 23 passes for 115 yards and threw two interceptions. On the ground, he ran for another 95 yards, including a 65-yard gain in the first quarter.
"(Winder) is going to throw the ball almost every down from a variety of different formations," Estes said. "We can't give up the big play on defense."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.