High-flying Salem travels to Flowery Branch

It’d be a fair to say last Friday was one of the better nights in Salem football history. The Seminoles, who were coming off a heartbreaking loss to county rival Heritage in week three and trailing by 10 points at halftime against perennial region doormat Winder-Barrow, responded with one of the most potent halves in the school’s 21-year history.

Starting with Tyriano Greene’s two-yard touchdown 33 seconds into the third quarter, the Seminoles rattled off 28 unanswered points to turn a 29-19 deficit into a 47-29 lead. As Jeremy Gray scooped up a fumble and returned it 10 yards for a touchdown with 1:42 left in the game Salem had its most points - 60 - since scoring 63 against Cross Keys in October, 2008.

Salem, which has been playing football since 1992, scored its third-most points, joining the Cross Keys win and a 71-14 victory over Union Grove in September, 2000.

“Our defense played a lot better in the second half and the offense was able to get more opportunities. A lot of that was the offensive line, they kind of grind it out there once we got a lead,” Salem coach John Starr said. “I think we tried to grind it out a little more, just to keep (Winder) off the field and keep crazy things from happening. I was exhausted. I think everyone was exhausted from all the craziness going on.”

Crazy or not, the Conyers school used the shoot out victory to even their overall record at 2-2 and Region 8-AAAAA mark at 1-1 heading into the most difficult stretch of the season.

The Seminoles play three consecutive weeks against three of the finest schools in the region, starting with a road test at Flowery Branch Friday. After that, Salem hosts Clarke Central October 4 and travels to state power Gainesville and all-state quarterback Deshaun Watson October 11.

First thing’s first, though: a date with high-powered Flowery Branch.

The Falcons are no stranger to shoot outs and since starting 0-2 with non-region losses to Northside, Warner Robins and West Forsyth, Flowery Branch had soundly defeated Cedar Shoals (39-25) and Loganville (48-14) to start region play.

“Just going to take them one at a time,” Starr said. “We just hope we can get people back. I looked at my injury list (before the Winder game) and we had seven definite outs. I’ve never seen that many kids get hurt at one time, in my 28 years of coaching. It was a scramble.”

There could be plenty of scrambling on both sides of the ball Friday. Salem’s defense, which is allowing an average of 18.5 points, will be trying to not only slow down the Hall County school, but reverse a trend in the short-lived head-to-head series. Since the teams began playing on a yearly basis in 2010, Flowery Branch has won three consecutive meetings by a combined score of 129-40.