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Salem capitalized on five turnovers and clamped down on defense to smother the Eagles.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Salem’s Devante Payne (left) scores a touchdown as Franklin County defender Andrew Harris tries to prevent it.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
ROCKY MOUNT — Conventional high school football wisdom says opening game performances are usually a little rough and ragged — some parts OK, other aspects need attention. Back to work next week.
That wisdom apparently was not conferred on the 2013 edition of the Salem squad. Playing crisp, disciplined and smart football, the Spartans thumped host Franklin County 38-0 Friday in front of a large crowd.
Salem coach Stephen Magenbauer took pains to be cautious with his appraisal.
“Things can be deceiving sometimes,” he said. “We put some points on the board, but really, it was a pretty close game, a real physical game. We certainly didn’t feel good at halftime. Then we made a couple of plays that made it look a little better than it was.”
The pertinent numbers for Salem were a 299-82 advantage in total yards, 15-8 in first downs, 5-1 advantage in turnover margin, zero points surrendered.
“They did a great job on defense especially,” Eagles coach Chris Jones said. “They shut us down totally on offense. Our defense was out there for way too many plays.”
The Eagles were driving deep in Salem territory late in the game against the mostly second string defense when defensive back Kevin Zambacca, a junior playing his first varsity game, made his second of two interceptions, this one inside the Spartans 5 to preserve the shutout.
“We watched film on them practically the whole week and it worked out for us well,” Zambacca said.
Devante Payne had the third interception off Eagles quarterback Braxton Wheeler, who went 6-for-17 for 58 yards. Franklin County was forced into unfavorable passing circumstances often, largely because its running game was ineffective. The Eagles netted 24 yards on the ground. One 20-yard chunk was lost on the second of two quarterback sacks that ended with the Eagles’ second lost fumble and Salem’s Alex Ramsey collecting the football and racing 43 yards for the closing touchdown.
“Our offense was inept,” Jones said. “Five turnovers, you won’t beat anybody.”
Kicker Kyle Reighard converted all the point-after touchdown kicks and belted a 32-yard field goal seven plays into the third quarter.
Franklin County’s run defense led by linebacker Logan Palmer did a decent job of keeping the Spartans running game more or less contained to 103 yards. Chandler Hunt led the way with 13 carries for 58 yards.
The offensive balance came from the passing game expertly managed by first-year triggerman Austin Coulling. The 6-foot-3, 187-pound sophomore went 12-for-16 for 196 yards. His 28-yard beauty of a flag pattern toss to favorite target Isaiah Parker (7 catches, 121 yards) for a touchdown the first play of the fourth quarter was a backbreaker that made it 24-0.
“We have total confidence in each other,” Coulling said. “I know he’s going to catch it and he knows I’m going to pass it to him.”
Coulling spread it around to six different receivers, none catching multiple balls except Parker. A 15-yard bullet to Zack Hill set up Salem’s second TD, a 1-yard score when Payne squeezed through a pinhole into the end zone.
Payne scored twice, the first one an 8-yard trap play in which he was virtually untouched with 10:31 left in the first quarter. That one was set up by a Franklin County fumble.
Hunt added a 9-yard fourth-quarter score on a pitch play.
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