Salem defenders take down a Rockdale County ball carrier during Friday's game which Salem won 27 to 14 for their third win in a row. The victory at Salem Football Stadium puts the Seminoles' season record at 4-2 and in the hunt for a playoff spot in Region 8-AAAA.
A pair of teams on winning streaks get together in Conyers on Friday. On one side is state power Clarke Central trying to return to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. On the other side of the field is Salem, hoping to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2007, and perhaps create a little magic similar to when the 2004 team went 13-1 and reached the state final four.
But for the Seminoles, who have won three consecutive games after a heart-breaking week 3 loss to Habersham Central, the first thing is first: stopping the high-powered Gladiators in one of the biggest games at Salem Stadium in a long time.
It could be one of the more higher-scoring games in Region 8-AAAA in 2011, as both offenses have shown a propensity to put up big numbers.
Clarke, which like Salem has won three consecutive games, travels to Conyers with an offense that has been cruising since scoring 14 points in a week 2 loss to Heritage. The Gladitors, led by senior tailback Quenshaun Watson, have scored 120 points during their winning streak and are averaging 36.6 in five games.
While Salem hasn't put up quite the numbers its Friday opponent has, the Seminoles offense can hold its own. Including last week's 27-14 win over rival Rockdale, Salem is averaging more than 31 points per game in five contests since a season-opening loss to Heritage.
With Heritage and Flowery Branch, both 6-0, holding the inside track on the top two seeds and first round home playoff games, the rest of the league may have to fight for spots 3 and 4. At the top of that list are Clarke and Salem.
"(The Salem players) know what the deal is," said John Starr, in his second season as the Seminoles head coach. "I haven't seen a whole lot of (Clarke). I'm more concerned about getting our guys healthy. We got to fight uphill until we get in."
The teams have only played seven times (the rivalry began in 2002), and Clarke is 5-2, winning the last four contests, including last season's 42-6 blowout. Salem last defeated the Gladiators in 2004.