Rash of third quarter miscues haunts Hounds
With the exception of their first game of the year against the Thayer Bobcats, the Salem Greyhounds have not let untimely turnovers derail them from the path to victory. While the Hounds have suffered their fair share of miscues in their first seven games, they have proved resilient enough to bounce back from potentially crippling mistakes.
That all changed Oct. 29 on a windy night in Crittenden County as Salem traveled to Earle to take on the Bulldogs in a battle for sole possession of second place in the 3AA Conference.
The Greyhounds' bounce-back abilities were missing on this particular evening as Earle cashed in on back-to-back-to-back Salem turnovers en route to a 24-8 win over Salem, leaving them with a 4-2 conference mark, a game behind Salem in the loss column.
It took Earle less than 20 seconds in the third quarter to break open a scoreless game at the half, pushing the Greyhounds (6-2, 4-1) into a hole that proved too steep to climb out of.
On Salem's first series of the second half, they fumbled the football into Earle's (5-4) hands at the Greyhound 25-yard line.
Kept in check for most of the first half by the Greyhound defense, the Bulldogs finally unleashed their deadly speed as Moriale Toombs sprinted for a 25-yard TD nine seconds after Earle took control of the Hound miscue, staking them to a 6-0 lead.
Disaster struck the Greyhounds' again on their next series from scrimmage as the Bulldogs plucked a Chad Willett pass out of the air at Salem's 29, giving Earle another short field to work with.
Nine seconds later, Toombs stood in the end zone as he busted loose for a 29-yard run for the Bulldogs. The 2-point conversion was stopped, but Earle led 12-0 with 9:34 left in the third.
Unfortunately for the Greyhounds, the third quarter couldn't end fast enough as they gave the ball back to Earle yet one more time on a fumble, again at their own 29.
Two plays later, Bulldog quarterback Cordell Dyson rolled out and hit James Jarrett for a 31-yard touchdown at the 5:55 point. Once again the 2-point attempt was stopped, but the Bulldogs appeared in complete control leading 18-0.
Not giving in to the Bulldog's blitz of points, Salem managed to string together its most impressive drive of the game just before the third frame ended.
Moving 81 yards in 12 plays, the Greyhounds punched the ball in on first-and-goal from the Earle 1-yard line with four ticks left on the clock. Phillip Taylor ran the 2-point conversion in out of an extra-point alignment, to get the Hounds on the board, down 18-8 after three.
The Greyhounds opened the fourth quarter with promise, using a 54-yard pass from Willett to Mike Innis to move the ball deep into Bulldog territory on a drive that started at the Salem 9.
Salem got to the Earle 23 before a couple of penalties pushed them back, forcing a fourth-and-11 from the 34. An incomplete pass ended Salem's threat, giving the ball back to the Bulldogs on downs.
Although this proved to be as close as Salem could inch toward the lead, Earle did post one last score with 3:12 left in the game thanks to Dyson's second TD pass of the game, setting the final score of 24-8.
Salem's rash of turnovers in the third wasn't the first miscues recorded in the game. Each side lost the ball in the first quarter, the Hounds twice on fumbles, the Bulldogs once on an interception. However, neither side could take advantage of these gifts.
Earle had a couple of chances to post points in the second quarter, but were denied by the Greyhound defense.
Running out of the single-wing formation, the Bulldogs got down to the Salem 10-yard line midway into the second. Going for it on fourth-and-8, Salem's Dustin Vaughan got his hands on a Dyson pass in the end zone to snuff out a Bulldog score.
On Earles' next series from scrimmage, the Hounds held again, stopping the Bulldogs on fourth-and-16 from the Salem 40.
Matt Arnold got in on the defensive scuffle for Salem when he picked off a Dyson pass on a tipped ball with 2:35 left before the half.
With the ball back in their hands, Salem used a 44-yard halfback pass from Taylor to Innis to get the ball to the Earle 10 just before intermission.
The Hounds ran out of steam once they got there, and both teams went to the halftime locker room locked in a 0-0 deadlock.
This deadlock didn't last long once the third quarter began, as Earle used a stout showing in that frame to send the Hounds to their first conference setback of the year.