Everybody in Salem knows what a championship high school football team looks like. Most would agree at this point Salem’s Spartans are more and more taking on that look again with each passing week.
Salem doesn’t play perfect football and never will, but as coach Don Holter likes to point out, the closer the Spartans get to that impossible standard, the better things will go.
The defending 4A champs of the only spring season ever played in this state got a pair of touchdowns from fullback Cam Leftwich, two score setups courtesy of a pair of Carson Williams interceptions, and the defense was all but impregnable as the Spartans overwhelmed host Northside 42-0 on Friday.
The last 5 minutes 28 seconds were played with a running clock, but there was still time for reserve running back Isaiah Barlow to add one more score, a 36-yard gallop that left-footed sophomore Wes Cross capped with his sixth conversion kick for the final count with 2:28 left.
“Our focus and intensity and where we should be got better tonight,” Holter said. “We had great discipline for four quarters and were very physical as always. Is it ever good enough? We’re proud but not satisfied.”
Another strong performance came from wide receiver Chauncey Logan, who doubles as a defensive back and punter. His big gain on a fake punt on Salem’s first possession salvaged a 67-yard drive that Leftwich punctuated with a 25-yard sprint to the end zone straight through the middle of the Vikings’ line.
“Thirty-two trap was the call,” the big fullback said. “Our linemen made a wide line call so the play hit wider than it was supposed to be. Their linebackers dispersed out so the middle was wide open for me.”
Leftwich hesitated for a tick when he broke through the line and found himself alone beyond the linebackers.
“I’m used to getting hit,” he said. “When I didn’t see anybody there, it was kind of shocking.”
That was the first of six rushing TDs produced by Salem’s ground game. Linemen Caleb Wright, George Copeland, Khaleif Johnson, Jake Massey, Sam Jones and Andrew Lutes — collectively known as The Mules — were dominant.
Leftwich put their efforts in perspective.
“Without them, I’m nothing.”
With Leftwich and tailback Javeon Jones teaming for 146 yards, Salem rolled up 206 total. Jones, who led all rushers with 77 yards on nine carries, added a pair of 2-yard scoring plunges.
The first of Jones’ visits to the end zone was set up by Williams’ first career interception.
“On that first one, the quarterback was rolling out right and our defensive lineman Cameron Martindale was getting some pressure on him,” said Williams, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior linebacker. “Then Cameron got his hand in his face, so he did not see where he was throwing the ball. So I jumped up, caught it and made sure my feet touched inbounds. Then I went and celebrated with my team.”
Another celebration ensued shortly thereafter when Williams did it again, this time with defensive end Nathaniel McClure engulfing Northside quarterback Lawrence Cole, who made a panic throw. Salem took over at the Vikings’ 24. Four snaps later, quarterback DaRon Wilson froze the defense for an instant with an excellent ball fake and then slipped to his left for the last 5 yards of the march.
Cole was substituting for Northside’s starter Sidney Webb, who has been sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Webb is expected back at practice next week, Northside coach Scott Fisher said.
“Lawrence did what we asked him to do, which was manage the game and give it his best and that’s just what he did,” Fisher said.
The coach was surprisingly yet somehow understandably upbeat because his injury- and illness-riddled team never stopped playing hard.
“I just told the team that I knew they won’t believe it, but I feel good after a 42-0 beating,” Fisher said. “I take nothing away from Salem; they have a very good football team. Our effort and character was exceptional. We’ll be ready for our district.”
Salem 42, Northside 0
Salem 7 14 7 14 — 42
Northside 0 0 0 0 — 0
S — Leftwich 25 run (Cross kick)
S — J. Jones 2 run (Cross kick)
S — Wilson 5 run (Cross kick)
S — J. Jones 2 run (Cross kick)
S — Leftwich 3 run (Cross kick)
S — Barlow 36 run (Cross kick)
First downs 14 8
Rushes-yards 32-206 28-70
Passing yards 34 41
Comp-Att-Int 4-7-0 6-11-2
Fumbles-lost 2-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 5-55 2-20
Punts-Avg. 1-29 4-22
RUSHING — Northside, Rhodes 6-22, Abshire 5-17, Slash 3-6, Funk 3-5, Saul 1-5, McGinnis 1-1, Cole 9-(minus-12). Salem, Jones 9-77, Leftwich 12-69, Wilson 6-31, Lingenfelter 5-29.
PASSING — Salem, Wilson 4-7-0-34. Northside, Jones 6-11-2-41.
RECEIVING — Salem, Logan 2-19, Leftwich 1-10, Massey 1-5. Northside, Abshire 5-27, Funk 1-11, Rhodes 1-3.