CHRISTIANSBURG – Even though Salem is less than a week into the 2020-21 football season, the Spartans’ offense already looks like it’s in midseason form.
Senior running back Zavione Wood rushed for 199 yards and receiver Shawn Collins scored three touchdowns to help the Spartans top Christiansburg 35-13 in a River Ridge District matinee Saturday.
The game was close thoughout the first half as Salem (2-0, 2-0) held a one-possession lead at 14-6 with less than four minutes left before halftime and Christiansburg driving down the field.
Things took a major turn at the 2:57 mark of the second quarter.
The Blue Demons were stopped on downs inside the Salem 10 when quarterback MJ Hunter’s pass to the goal line on a fourth-and-6 from the 9 fell incomplete.
Salem did not settle for just stopping the Blue Demons as the Spartans offense marched down the field in eight plays, keyed by a 58-yard run up the middle by Wood to put Salem inside the red zone.
“My fullback took on the linebacker that play and I just had to wiggle my way out in the open,” Wood said.
Four plays later, the Spartans overcame a holding penalty and capped the drive when Chauncey Logan lobbed a 12-yard scoring strike in the end zone to Collins to make the score 21-6 with just 20 seconds left in the half.
Collins initially looked like he bobbled the catch on the play with a defensive back all over him, but that was not the case.
“It actually bounced off a defender’s helmet and I caught it like a second catch,” Collins said of the score.
Collins' catch proved to be a deflating blow for the Blue Demons’ chances.
“That was definitely a turning point,” Christiansburg coach Alex Wilkens said after his team’s season opener. “Situational football is important, and we weren’t able to make the plays there and they did.”
The momentum continued to stay on Salem’s side in the early moments of the third quarter in the form of an odd special teams play.
Christiansburg was stopped on three plays to open the third quarter, and punter Curtis Altizer’s ensuing kick traveled only 4 yards after hitting off the side of his foot.
While Collins was not a returner on the punt, he found himself in the right spot at the right time as he caught the ball out of the air at the Christiansburg 30 and raced to the end zone for another score, making it 28-6 less than two minutes into the second half.
Collins completed Salem’s scoring by catching a 29-yard TD pass from Logan with 9:34 left in the fourth quarter to make it 35-6.
Salem made a statement on the game’s opening possession as the Spartans drove 64 yards in 14 plays, taking five minutes and 38 seconds off the clock before back Cam Leftwich scored on a 1-yard TD run up the middle to make it 7-0.
Late in the first quarter, Christiansburg’s defense recovered a fumble near midfield after Logan and Wood missed connections on a handoff.
The Blue Demons got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter when wide receiver Travis Altizer got behind the Salem secondary for a 38-yard touchdown pass from Hunter to make it 7-6 after the PAT was blocked.
Salem answered the Christiansburg score with a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took 5:37 to complete, capped by Wood’s 2-yard TD run for a 14-6 lead.
The Spartans got off to the quick start even after dealing with a short week of practice due to playing their season opener Tuesday night in a 50-0 victory over Blacksburg.
“We had three days to get prepared for a really good football team,” Salem coach Don Holter said. “I was really proud of their preparation.”