CONYERS -- Coming into Friday's game, Salem's offense had scored just 24 points during a long losing streak. In the final home game of the season against Cedar Shoals, the Seminoles found a new way to extend their winless spell. A key fumble with less than five minutes to play allowed Cedar Shoals to kick the eventual game-winning field goal in a 16-14 win at Seminoles Stadium.
The loss was Salem's fifth consecutive and dropped the Conyers school to 2-7 and 1-6 in Region 8-AAAAA. Cedar Shoals improved to 4-5 and 2-5 in league play.
In a 14-14 game and with Salem inside its five-yard line, Licash Lackey took a pitch and fumbled. Cedar's Chandler Bosquet fell on the ball and the Jaguars were in business. Though the drive stalled at the seven, Zak Huberty kicked a 24-yard field goal for the winning points.
"Focus," Salem coach John Starr said of Lackey's fumble. "He's a good ball carrier, sometimes we just lose our focus."
The first Salem fumble, by Jordan Scott in the third quarter, led to Cedar's second touchdown of the night. After Tevin Shields fell on the ball, it took the Jaguars seven plays to extend their lead to 14-6 as Darius Jordan had a nice pump fake on fourth-and-long and tossed a 20-yard touchdown to Quentin Hall to make it a 14-6 game with 1:49 left.
Salem answered, finally getting a big play from its offense as Damian Gordon took a short pass from Scott and out-ran the Cedar defense down the sideline for a 74-yard touchdown. Gordon did it all on the drive, sneaking over the goal line on the two-point conversion, which tied the game at 14-14.
After Huberty's field goal, Salem had one final shot offensively, but after a 19-yard hook up between Gordon and Ahmad Mitchell got the Seminoles to the 49, a penalty and a pair of incompletions put an end to any comeback hopes.
"We just can't make excuses," said Starr. "They're still playing hard; they play to the end."
Salem, which was shut out a week ago against Apalachee, got a huge break midway through the second and took advantage to score its first points since Oct. 12 against Gainesville. On a fourth-and-21, Lackey took a pitch and got off a short running punt, but Cedar Shoals was penalized for roughing the kicker.
That set up an automatic first down, and the Seminoles got a key six-yard gain from Lackey on a third-and-five. Four plays later, on another fourth-and-long play, Gordon's pass went through the arms of Cedar Shoals defensive back Trent Finch and into the arms of Mitchell, who made a number of nifty moves and scored from 24 yards to make it 6-0.
Cedar Shoals equaled Salem's fourth quarter feat and took its first lead on the ensuing possession. The Jaguars got a 14-yard completion between Darius Jordan to Brandon Whitehead and Salem's roughing the passer penalty put the ball at the 12-yard line.
On fourth-and-three, Jordan had his choice of several receivers, then changed direction and found a wide open Chris Middlebrooks in the back of the end zone for a five-yard touchdown that put the visitors up 7-6.