CONYERS - Salem coach Chad Estes is not looking past Monroe Area.
Sure, the Hurricanes are 0-3 and, following last season's 0-10 record, haven't won a game since November 2007. But they've also hung tight with Apalachee and defending region runner-up Clarke Central. Those results have helped the Seminoles head man keep his team motivated.
"Monroe may have an 0-3 record, but they are a much improved team from last year," Estes said. "They lost to Clarke Central 21-7 and were only down 10-7 to Apalachee at the half."
Salem is coming off its first defeat of the season, last week's 47-35 shootout loss to Loganville, which should also help motivate the hosts. The Red Devils precision passing attack and the running of Storm Johnson prevented the Seminoles from starting 3-0 for the first time since the 2004 state semifinal team began 13-0.
"Our defense prides itself on being very physical (and) I think that Loganville was the more physical team last week," Estes said. "On top of that, we gave up too many big plays, compounded by the fact that we did not tackle very well. Our kids are looking forward to getting back on the field."
Although the big plays came mostly from Loganville - the Red Devils had five plays of 35 yards or more - Salem had its share of highlights, mostly from one of the top rushing attacks in Region 8-AAAA. Tyler Askew's 49-yard touchdown run was the biggest burst, while quarterback Jojo Smith, who remains at less than 100 percent with an ankle injury, added a 41-yard run that led to another score.
"We have committed to running the option attack. It makes a defense defend the entire field," Estes said.
While the run game appears to be in mid-season form, the passing attack has been almost non-existent. Though it's mainly due to the rushing attack, the Seminoles have thrown for 69 yards in the season's first three weeks. Against a Hurricanes team that has surrendered more than 32 points per game during its 13-game losing streak, perhaps this is the week the passing game gets on track.
"We work extremely hard on being able to throw the football during practice," Estes said. "If I thought that we could move the chains and score touchdowns by throwing the ball more, we would."
Field position has been a big thing for Salem, as well. In 27 offensive possessions through three games, the Seminoles have started on their own 35 or closer 17 times.
"All I can say is, that the closer we start to their end zone, the better chance we have to score," Estes said.
SideBar: At a glance
· Who: Monroe Area Purple Hurricanes (0-3) at Salem Seminoles (2-1)
· Where: Salem Stadium, Conyers
· When: 7:30 p.m. today
· Last week: Monroe lost to Madison County 45-15; Salem lost to Loganville 47-35
· Series: Salem leads 1-0
· Last year: Salem won 24-7