Conyers Salem’s football team may be a long shot to make the Class AAAA state playoffs with just two weeks to go, but don’t tell that to a quartet of senior running backs. Jahaad Coleman, Marcus Stokes, Che’Darious Robinson and Eric Crawford celebrated Senior Night in style, rushing for a combined 433 yards and five touchdowns in the Seminoles’ 42-7 win over Winder-Barrow at Salem Stadium.
Salem, clinging to hopes for a No. 4 seed at 5-4 in Region 8-AAAA, will finish its season next weekend at unbeaten No. 5 Flowery Branch. Winder fell to 0-8 and had it's losing streak, which stretches back more than two years, extended to 22 games.
While the senior Seminoles carried the offense, the hosts’ defense did a nice job of shutting down the visitors from Barrow County. The Bulldoggs, who have scored just 79 points the entire season, could muster only 147 yards of total offense. It was a much-needed comfortable victory after Salem lost to Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals by a combined score of 88-24 the previous two weeks.
"Little bit different," Salem coach John Starr said of the difference in Friday's game. "I'm just glad to see them have fun. I haven't been a lot of fun to be around."
Salem led by two touchdowns at halftime, but got some distance in a big-play third quarter. Crawford out-ran the Winder secondary and scored from 31 yards and less than three minutes later, Stokes added a 52-yard touchdown. Later, Coleman, who rushed for 240 yards on only eight carries (30- yards per carry) added a 79-yard jaunt to put the Seminoles up 42-7 midway through the third.
It didn’t take long at all for Salem to jump on top. On the Seminoles’ second offensive play of the game, Coleman leaped over a defender, hit the sideline and changed direction to go virtually un-touched for a 58-yard touchdown to put the hosts up 7-0.
Winder was unfazed and answered the touchdown immediately. Facing a third-and-long deep in its own territory, Jamonte Riden burst through the Salem defense for a 34-yard gain, then Chad Platt followed with a 47-yard touchdown scamper to tie it at 7-7. But that was the only points the Bulldoggs could come up with.
"I thought our defense played well tonight," Starr said. "They're still playing hard."
Coleman, who had 144 yards on the ground in the first quarter alone, set up another score for the Seminoles, with 82 yards on two carries, and Stokes scored from seven yards to make it 14-7. After Stokes’ touchdown with 5:00 left in the first, neither team could get anything going offensively until Salem ran an effective two-minute drill, aided by three Winder penalties and added to its lead right before halftime. Robinson exploded down the sideline for a 47 of his 95 rushing yards, a defensive pass interference penalty helped get the Seminoles closer, and quarterback Damion Gordon’s one-yard sneak made it 21-7.