For a little while last Friday it seemed as if the Salem football team was about to do something it hadn’t done since 2009: knock off rival Heritage.
The Seminoles were playing at home and playing well, leading the Patriots 6-3 heading into the second half (and without an ill-advised block-in-the-back penalty which nullified a long touchdown run it would’ve been an even bigger cushion).
But first the visiting Patriots scored on their opening possession of the second half, and after two promising Salem drives led to punts, Heritage effectively put the game away with a 16-play, 91-yard drive that when it ended after a two-yard touchdown run had Salem down 17-6 with a little over two minutes left in the game.
Despite a 23-yard touchdown connection between Licash Lackey and Quintavious Byrd that got the Seminoles to within 17-12, it was too little too late and Salem fell to Heritage for the fourth consecutive season.
“Played hard. We played hard they played hard. I thought it was the best Salem-Heritage game I’ve been a part of,” said fourth-year Salem coach John Starr. “It was a great football game, it was toe-to-toe.”
Salem, 1-2 overall and 0-1 in Region 8-AAAAA, will look to bounce back this weekend when it travels to Winder-Barrow. The Bulldoggs, who won their season opener for the first time since 2007 over Jackson County, have struggled since, losing consecutive games to Monroe Area and Gainesville by a combined score of 108-14, including last week’s 68-0 loss to the state-ranked Red Elephants.
Salem is hoping Winder’s defensive slump continues and the Seminoles certainly have the quarterback to suggest it could. Lackey was excellent yet again in the loss to the Patriots. After a 254 of total offense in the a week two win over Wesleyan, Lackey rushed for 116 yards and threw for 142 against Heritage, while also having a remarkable 67-yard touchdown run called back by the penalty.
“I thought he ran the offense pretty good. I thought overall he played well,” Starr said of Lackey. “I thought a lot of kids played well.”
As for the Salem defense, it’s been much better in 2013 a year after allowing an average of 30 points. The Seminoles did allow Rockdale to score three touchdowns in week one, but the unit shut out Wesleyan in week two and Heritage had just 54 total yards in the first half and 175 for the game. The numbers looked good against Heritage, but Starr pleaded with his defense to get off the field during the Patriots’ long drive to no avail.
“We should’ve got off the field. I thought we should’ve gotten off the field,” Starr said. “We lost four kids (to injury) We were trying to scramble and get new fresh people out there that really hadn’t had a lot of reps. (Heritage) took advantage. Like I told them after the game, at the same time, you got to have enough confidence to go out and play hard next Friday night as well.”
Salem has won five straight in the series with Winder, which has scored in single digits in four of the games. The last Bulldoggs’ victory came in September, 2003.