SALEM 13, WESTSIDE 19
When the Westside Warriors walked off the field at Brinkley Oct. 8, 2005, with a 27-6 victory, they probably had little reason to think they were about to hit a major dry spell.
However, almost two years and 15 straight losses later, that's exactly what the Warriors were in -- a major dry spell.
Now all that is over.
Getting three touchdowns from Jacob Sharp, along with collecting three Salem turnovers in the last 12 minutes of play, Westside knocked off the Greyhounds 19-13 Sept. 7 in non-conference football action at Greyhound Stadium to find the win column for the first time in a long while.
One of those losses Westside (1-1) suffered during that long stretch came at the hands of Salem (0-2) last year in Jonesboro, as the greyhounds took full advantage of the mistakes the Warriors made.
This time around, it was the Warriors who used turnovers to stifle the Hounds.
The game was knotted at 13-all heading into the final 12 minutes of play, a stanza that saw Salem turn the ball over on all three of its fourth-quarter possessions.
The Greyhounds' first miscue came at the 10:39 point of the fourth, although Westside couldn't turn the turnover into points.
With the ball at the Salem 5-yard line and Westside looking to break the tie, Brad Segura crashed through the Warriors' offensive line to stop Sharp for a loss.
Then with the ball at the 10, Salem's defensive line crushed another Warrior run attempt, this time jarring the ball loose to give possession back to the Greyhounds with 7:35 left to play.
Backed up to their own 16, the Hounds did get a little wiggle room as quarterback Skylar Jones hooked up with wideout Jason Huff for a 12-yard gain, moving the ball to the 28.
But three plays later, disaster struck for Salem as Jones was picked off, giving the football right back to Westside.
This time, the Warriors immediately exchanged this good fortune for points.
On first-and-10 from the Salem 16, Sharp rambled into the end zone for his first score of the night, giving the Warriors the lead. The 2-point try was stopped by Salem, but with 4:40 left in the game, Westside had moved on top 19-13.
Salem did move the ball on its next possession, with the clock as much its enemy as Westside was.
Holding fort at the Warriors' 38-yard line, and just a fraction over a minute left, the Hounds' shot at tying the game came to an end when Tyler Lloyd jumped in front of a Jones pass to seal the deal for Westside.
First-year Westside Head Coach E.T. Daniels received a Gatorade shower from his troops immediately after the game, a game which was up for grabs most of the evening.
The Hounds were certainly not at full strength, especially on the defensive side of the football, as starters Darrell Johnson and Ethan Pierce were sidelined nursing knee injuries suffered in Salem's week-one loss to the Thayer Bobcats.
Banged up or not, were it not for the Greyhound defense, Westside might have scored right out of the gate.
After using a good runback on the opening kick, aided by a Salem penalty, the Warriors started with a short field, with the ball at the Greyhound 31.
A handful of plays later and Westside was in business with a third-and-goal from the 3.
After an illegal procedure penalty moved the Warriors back five yards, Dylan Smith pushed Westside back even more, sacking Sharp back at the 12-yard line.
An incomplete pass on the next snap snuffed out Westside's early scoring chance, giving the ball to Salem for the first time on the evening.
The Greyhounds couldn't muster much forward progress and were looking at a fourth-and-15 from their own 7.
Standing near the end line of his own goal line, Huff boomed an incredible punt that cleared 50 yards in the air before hitting the turf and rolling for another 12 yards.
But the option-oriented Warriors used a couple of plays to get within striking distance, setting up the night's first score.
On second-and-1, Sharp scampered 31 yards to get Westside on the board with 3:15 left in the first. Josh Goodon kicked the PAT and the Warriors were on top 7-0.
Then the Greyhounds got a chance to show that, they too, know a bit about running on the football field.
Flashing just what kind of a threat Salem has in its sophomore quarterback, the Hounds quickly answered Westside's jab with a counterpunch of their own.
On second-and-10, Jones, looking like a human pinball, bounced off a pair of Westside defenders, skimmed the turf, kept his balance with one hand on the ground, righted himself and then ripped off a massive 64-yard touchdown run to energize Salem. The PAT was wide of its mark, but with time winding down in the first quarter, the Greyhounds had managed to edge within one, 7-6, of Westside.
It was Westside that made the first move in the second quarter, getting a 10-yard TD tote from Sharp to add to its margin. Michael Beck managed to get his hand on the point-after try, knocking it to the ground, but with 10:32 left in the second, Westside had pulled ahead 13-6.
Then, on the next series from scrimmage, the Hounds' no-huddle, Spread offense looked as sharp as it has during the first two weeks of play.
Jones directed a five-and-a-half-minute, 63-yard scoring drive, mixing in carries from Blake Hurst and Corey Tyler, along with a 14-yard pass to Huff.
With the ball at the Westside 1-yard line, Jones capped the impressive march off with a blast up the middle with 5:08 left until intermission. Huff knocked down the extra-point to knot the game at 13-all.
Trying to build on this momentum, Salem then squibbed an onsides kick that the Hounds recovered at the Warrior 45-yard line.
Going three-and-out, the Greyhounds punted and had to settle for a 13-all deadlock at the break.
The third quarter was scoreless, but just barely.
With the Warriors in possession of the football at the Salem 48, Sharp peeled off a 28-yard run, that save a tackle at the 19 by Beck, probably would have been a Westside touchdown.
But on the Warriors' next snap, Sharp did cross the goal line, only not with complete control of the football. As he entered the end zone, the ball popped out of Sharp's hands and went out the back of the end zone for a touchback.
Avoiding that big bullet, the Greyhounds managed to keep even with Westside through three, with matters set at 13-all heading into the final quarter.
But it was in that final quarter that Westside finally shook free of Salem, giving the Warriors their first win in their last 16 football games.
In junior-high action Sept. 6, it was the junior Greyhounds that struck first, but it was the Westside junior Warriors who controlled the game, knocking off Salem 28-6 in Jonesboro.
The junior Hounds (0-2) scored on the first play of the night, but Westside then reeled off 28 straight points to post the victory.