SALEM 0, EPC 39
In order to have a shot to dethrone the reigning conference champions, a team not only needs all its weapons firing at full strength, it also needs a healthy dose of good luck mixed with a few fortunate bounces of the ball.
Unfortunately, as the Salem Greyhounds made the long trip to Lepanto to scrap with the East Poinsett County Warriors Nov. 3, they had none of the above, resulting in a 39-0 season-ending loss to the Warriors.
The Greyhounds finish their season with an overall mark of 3-7, and 3-5 in 3AA Conference play, while EPC improves to 7-2, 6-1 in 3AA and once again claims the conference title and the 3AA's top spot in the state playoffs that begin Nov. 11. The Warriors' only setback in conference play came early in the season at the hands of Earle, whom Salem had beaten the week prior to its trip to Lepanto.
A season's worth of bumps and bruises while playing with a thin roster finally caught up with the Hounds, as starting quarterback Chad Willett, after suffering some major hits against Earle, was unable to go against EPC.
In his place, Dustin Vaughn, who had taken limited snaps at quarterback during practice over the course of the year, was thrust into the position of field general against the Warriors. Vaughn, too, was not at full strength, as he had been battling flu symptoms most of the season's last week, but gutted it out anyway, going the distance for Salem.
To add to the Greyhounds' woes on the health front, EPC's Ked Madden had a huge night, catching a touchdown pass, running two punt returns in for scores and picking off three Salem passes, while helping his squad to a fast start and big win.
For most of the first quarter, EPC enjoyed excellent field position, staking the Warriors to a short field and playing a big part in their 26 first-quarter points.
It took EPC just five plays from scrimmage to score first, as Madden reeled in a 20-yard TD pass from quarterback Brett Harden at the 8:55 point of the first to go on top 7-0 with the extra point.
EPC's next possession started at the Greyhound 19-yard line, but Zach Harber picked off Hardin to momentarily stall the Warriors.
This didn't faze EPC for long, with Keun Joplin catching a 37-yard touchdown toss from Hardin at the 5:40 mark of the first. The PAT gave the Warriors a 14-0 advantage.
Joplin wasn't done, as he snagged another Hardin pass for a score with just under two minutes left on the first-quarter clock, this one from four yards out, pushing EPC ahead 20-0.
Things really came undone for the Hounds with no time showing on the first-quarter clock.
Punting the ball away after being held to a three-and-out series with nine ticks showing, Madden took the punt and ran it back 55 yards for a score with the scoreboard clock showing 0:00, to boost EPC's lead to 26-0 heading into the second quarter.
The start of the second was like de ja vu all over again for Salem.
After another three-and-out series, Madden once again took a Greyhound punt and rambled 55 yards for a TD at the 9:52 point of the second, extending the Warriors' margin to 33-0.
Chris Davis wrapped up the scoring for EPC with a 12-yard run coming with 7:16 left until the half, finishing off the Warriors' 39-point victory.
Although EPC and Cross County share the same conference mark, both at 6-1, by virtue of their win over the T-Birds, the Warriors will get the 3AA's number-one seed in the Class AA playoffs.