Conyers It had been a long time since Salem’s football team had beaten Clarke Central. The Seminoles will have to wait at least one more year. Quenshaun Watson rushed for 157 yards and scored four touchdowns and Clarke dominated a key Region 8-AAAA game, winning 52-14 Friday at Salem Stadium.
Clarke (5-1), which won its fifth consecutive game against the Seminoles, improved to 6-2 all-time-4-0 at Salem Stadium-in a series that began in 2002. Salem, trying to stay alive for one of the league’s four playoff spots, had its three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 4-3.
"It wasn't tough, it was just embarrassing. I'm so disappointed," said second-year Salem coach John Starr, whose team was without a number of starters, including leading tailback Jahaad Coleman. "We can't make excuses because we got a few guys hurt."
It took Clarke 19 seconds to get on the scoreboard, stunning the host Seminoles with a long touchdown run on the game’s first offensive play. Watson found a big hole early in the run, and thanks to a key block, exploded for a 90-yard touchdown to give the Gladiators an early, 7-0 lead.
Watson struck twice more on the ground before halftime. The tailback, who is an uncommitted senior, capped an eight play, 55-yard drive with a five-yard touchdown burst to make it 14-0 with 3:38 to play in the first quarter. Early in the second, Clarke used a short field to make it a three-score game. Sophomore quarterback Cameron Johnson found Torey Gartrell, who made a pair of nifty moves to get to the Salem 11-yard line on a 37-yard completion. Watson didn’t waste any time making it 21-0, scoring un-touched from 11 yards.
Salem looked to be on its way to snapping the shut out bid late in the first half as the offense spent 12 plays getting to the Clarke 16 before Antone Leonard fumbled. That gave Clarke a chance to add to its lead, and though both teams went three-and-out on ensuing possessions, Johnson found Watson on a screen pass and Watson did the rest, scoring from 60 yards to send the Gladiators to the locker room up 28-0.
"You can't go out there with wide eyes in this game. We couldn't find anybody to man up and step up for this team," Starr said. We're a lot better than that."
Salem finally got on the scoreboard with 3:26 left in the third when Che’Darious Robinson scored on a 50-yard run to cut the deficit to 38-7. The good feeling didn’t last long as Clarke took one play on the ensuing possession to get the points back as Jalani Payne out-ran the Salem secondary for a 44-yard touchdown.
Both teams go on the road next week when Clarke travels to Apalachee and Salem heads to Athens for a game with Cedar Shoals.