Conyers In a game where neither team moved the ball much, nor was able to create its own momentum, Salem caught a huge break from its opponent that turned out to be the difference. A key fumble early in the fourth quarter led to the go-ahead touchdown and the Seminoles defense held Apalachee to 39 second-half yards as Salem evened its record at 2-2 with a 14-7 win over Apalachee.
Salem was coming off a loss to Habersham where it squandered an 11-point lead in the final three minutes, but didn't show it in defeating Apalachee for the first time in four series meetings.
“The last 11 days have been very difficult, I haven’t slept a lot,” said Salem coach John Starr.
With Apalachee (0-3) in its own territory on a third-and-23 late in the third quarter, tailback Zay Henry tried to turn a negative gain into positive yardage, but fumbled and Salem’s Ryan George pounced on the loose ball to set the Seminoles up for the go-ahead score. After a penalty, Gordon pulled off a great fake on an option play, and kept himself, sprinting for a 40-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
From that point, the visiting Wildcats ran six more plays and collected nine yards the rest of the game
“I was really pleased with our defense, they really put on a good show. And obviously, we needed it,” said Starr. “It’s amazing, when two wing-T (offenses) play each other, we kind of have an idea of what each other was going to do. Kind of a cat/mouse game.”
Salem had no trouble moving the ball down the field on the game’s opening possession, marching 73 yards in under two minutes to grab the first lead of the game. The Seminoles ran six plays-four ran by Jahaad Coleman for 66 yards-and the smallest amount of yardage gained was on Ahmad Mitchell’s eight-yard touchdown run to put the hosts up 7-0.
“We did pretty good, had a nice scoring (drive) on their defense,” Starr said. “(But) we may have relaxed a little bit, took it too easy.”
Apalachee also didn’t take long to score its first points, pulling even late in the first quarter with a three-play, 60-yard drive. Stanley Williams had a 12-yard run that got the Wildcats into Salem territory, then the sophomore found a hole and exploded, un-touched for a 40 of his 65 first-half yards for the tying touchdown.
Salem had a chance to re-take the lead following the Wildcats initial touchdown. On a perfectly executed play fake by Damion Gordon, the quarterback found a wide-open Jeff Taylor for an apparent 58-yard touchdown, but the score was wiped out when the Seminoles had an ineligible receiver downfield. The offense struggled on the final four drives of the first half as the Seminoles ran 15 plays for just 36 yards.