CONYERS -- It wasn't perfect, but for the first game of a new season, Heritage will be more than happy putting one in the win column. Quami Stanley rushed for 196 yards, including two huge runs, and Heritage ran for 350 yards as a team and overcame 105 yards in penalties to defeat Salem, 34-14.
The Patriots, who are trying to return to the Class AAAA playoffs after a seven-win season in 2010, led 10-0 at the break, but Stanley exploded for a 64-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter, then early in the fourth had a beautiful run that included escaping the the grasp of two Salem defenders for an 86-yard run that put Heritage up 27-7. Not to be outdone, Dominic Craft (82 rushing yards) appeared to be caught for a loss but reversed his field and made a nifty move for a 47-yard touchdown run that made it a 34-7 game.
"Those two guys, they can flat out run," said Heritage coach Chad Frazier. "And boy, it's good to have them on our team. I don't think we had a drive score, it was just big plays. We got to work on that."
An opportunistic Heritage defense caused a fumble late in the first quarter to help the visitors take the first lead of the game. On the first play of Salem's second offensive drive of the game, Che'Darious Robinson coughed up the ball and Patriots defensive back Robert Boddie scooped up the loose ball and scored un-touched from eight yards to give Heritage (1-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAAA) a 7-0 lead.
The Patriots used a big pass play on first-and-long late in the second quarter to build on its halftime lead. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Sutton, in his first full season as the starter, found Steven Everson for a 45-yard completion to get Heritage to the Salem (0-1, 0-1) 18-yard line. Though a false start penalty and two short running plays forced a field goal, Chris Raines snuck a line drive kick through the uprights for a 34-yard field goal and a 10-0 cushion.
Salem struggled offensively in the first half, collecting just 83 total yards, and losing two of its three fumbles. The Seminoles most productive drive came mid-way through the second quarter when they marched 55 yards and had a first down on the Heritage 27-yard line before two short running plays and two incompletions stalled the drive.
After Stanley's first long run, Salem answered on the ensuing drive to cut the deficit to 17-7. A Heritage personal foul on third-and-long helped, and Salem capped a nine-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Damion Gordon (10-for-14, 134 yards) to Lorenzo McWilliams II.
"I thought it was important, because it was a little momentum, as far as a momentum shift," Frazier said of Stanley's run. "(But Salem) moved the ball (and) we missed a lot of tackles. I'd like to see us get off the field a little more," Frazier said.
Raines made it 20-7 late in the third, booting a 27-yard field goal with 1:13 to play.