SALEM 12, CAVE?CITY?24
The terms were fairly basic and easy to understand as the Salem Greyhounds traveled to Cave City Oct. 19 to tangle with the Cavemen in 2-3A Conference play.
Win and have a shot at grabbing one of the conference's five spots in the Class 3A state playoffs.
Lose and see that shot take an irreparable hit.
Finding the defense that had been missing from its side during a four-game losing skid to the top four 2-3A teams --Harding Academy, Perryville, Mayflower and Marshall -- it was Cave City that lives in the hopes of obtaining a playoff berth, as the Cavemen topped the visitors from Salem 24-12 on Fall Royalty Night at Caveman Stadium.
The loss drops Salem to 1-7 overall, 1-4 in the conference race, while the Cavemen even their season mark at 4-4, 1-4 in the conference.
The win also marks Cave City's first-ever 2-3A Conference victory, in this, its second year of high school varsity football.
The Cavemen came up with a fumble recovery on their own 7-yard line late in the first half and then got a big interception late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.
The Hounds were able to move the football against the Cavemen, as quarterback Adam Montgomery was seven-of-16 passing for 163 yards and a touchdown through the air, while on the ground he rushed for 21 yards and Salem's other score of the game.
Turnovers have also been a big part of both team's inability to find consistent success as of late, and this night started off no differently, with the Cavemen muffing a Salem punt after holding the Greyhounds to a three-and-out on their first possession of the night.
Cave City didn't let Salem take advantage of this gift and held the Greyhounds on another three-and-out, setting up the first points of the night.
Justin Frazier (19 carries, 73 yards rushing) capped a six-play, 80-yard drive for Cave City by blasting in from three yards out on first-and-goal with 6:07 left in the first quarter. Chase Gorman carried the 2-point conversion in to give Cave City an 8-0 lead.
The Greyhounds got on the scoreboard with a minute left in the first quarter as Montgomery scored on a 1-yard run. The 2-point try was stopped, leaving Cave City in front 8-6 after one.
Salem's scoring drive went 73 yards in 12 plays and featured a nifty reverse carry from Jason Huff, along with a 38-yard burst from Skylar Jones (52 yards rushing).
Cave City held the ball for almost seven minutes on its first possession of the second quarter, a series that got a jump start off a fake punt.
On fourth-and-3, with the ball at the Cavemen 36, punter Tyler Woods took the snap and handed off to Gorman, who ran for four yards and a fresh set of downs.
With momentum on its side, Cave City drove all the way downfield and Frazier logged his second TD of the first half on a 4-yard run with 5:17 left until the half. The 2-point attempt was stopped, but Cave City held a 14-6 lead.
Then on Salem's next series, a huge blunder on Cave City's part ended up turning out positive for the Cavemen.
Salem had moved the ball deep in Cave City's turf, using a 47-yard pass from Montgomery to Jones (three catches, 64 yards receiving) to set up a certain score.
The Caveman defense held Salem out of the end zone, but Greyhound kicker Jason Huff booted a 36-yard field goal on fourth-and-19 for Salem.
Cave City was flagged for roughing the kicker on the play, giving the Hounds an automatic first down at the Cave City 9-yard line.
Forgoing the field goal this time around, Salem decided to go for the touchdown.
This turned out not to work in the Hounds' favor, as Salem fumbled the ball on third down and Gorman scooped it up for Cave City, sending the teams to the half with the Cavemen ahead 14-6.
With Cave City still in front 14-6 after a scoreless third quarter, it was Salem's turn at a big mistake.
On fourth-and-4 at the Salem 13, the Greyhound defense was whistled for an offsides, giving Cave City a fresh set of downs.
Cave City didn't get into the end zone, but did settle for a 28-yard field goal from William Boyd that extended the Caveman lead to 17-6.
This lead grew to 24-6 as Cave City held Salem on four downs on the Greyhounds' next series, taking the ball over on downs at the Salem 25-yard line.
After a 13-yard run by Moody, Frazier finished the two-play drive with a 12-yard TD run with 8:31 left to play.
Needing big plays in a hurry, Salem turned to the air.
Montgomery hit Huff (two catches, 59 yards receiving) with a 47-yard pass, a throw that Cave City defensive back Dalton Carpenter got his hands on, but as he fell to the turf, the ball bounced off his knee into Huff's hands.
Three pass plays later, Salem had its second touchdown of the night, a 12-yard TD reception by Corey Tyler at the 7:55 mark. Montgomery was stopped on the 2-point try, leaving Cave City on top 24-12.
Cave City's defense did have the last say on the game, as Moody picked off Montgomery with a shade over four minutes left to play, giving the ball back to the Cavemen who ran out the clock on their 24-12 victory.
Cave City needs to knock off Yellville-Summit (2-6, 2-3) at home and Rose Bud (1-7, 0-5) on the road to guarantee itself one of the conference's five playoff spots for this year.