Salem head coach Chad Estes wasn't bashful when discussing how important his team's win over Cedar Shoals was last week.
Following two losses to Madison County and Clarke Central by a combined eight points that dropped the Seminoles to 3-3, a convincing victory in a difficult environment like The Jungle in Athens would go a long way to keeping slim playoff hopes alive.
"We had two tough losses; we needed a win," Estes said. "One thing, we played hard in two losses, for whatever reason it just didn't go our way. I'm just proud of our kids."
There was a whole lot to be proud of, especially on the defensive end.
The Seminoles, who improved to 4-3 with the 42-7 win, forced five turnovers and had two defensive touchdowns. Dontavious Price had a 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown early in the second half and Jarrett Brown returned the last of his three interceptions for a fourth-quarter touchdown that capped the scoring.
Estes has seen the defense - allowing eight points a game in four wins, but more than 30 per game in three losses - improve each week.
"I think our defense has been improving over the course of the year," Estes said. "They came out on Cedar Shoals' homecoming and really played well. They gave the same effort that they'd been giving. We just made some plays."
The fourth-year coach was also pleased with his team playing a complete game, arguably the team's first since the opening night win over Heritage. Now, Salem gets two consecutive home games, starting with Friday's game against 2-5 Winder-Barrow.
"We're hoping (the win over Cedar Shoals is) going to take us; maybe we've turned that corner," Estes said. "I just think our kids are starting to understand what it's going to take. I feel like we're going to be getting the same effort these last three regular season games. It's going to be nice (to be at home), the last two or three are our longest road trips (and) with the playoffs on the line, playing at home in front of a big home crowd. In that respect, it's going to work out good for us now to be home for the next two weeks."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Winder-Barrow at Salem
· Who: Winder-Barrow Bulldoggs (2-5) at Salem Seminoles (4-3)
· Where: Seminole Stadium
· When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
· Last week: Salem defeated Cedar Shoals 42-7; Winder-Barrow lost to Rockdale 40-14
· Series: Salem leads 2-1
· Last season: Salem won 21-0