SALEM 48, ROSE BUD 36
Say this much for the Salem Greyhound offense -- when it gets rolling, it really gets rolling.
And when it doesn't, it really doesn't.
Through the first six weeks of the season, there's been no happy medium on the offensive side of the pigskin for the Hounds.
In their three losses on the year, the Greyhounds have scored exactly zero points, for an average of 0 points per loss.
In their three wins on the year, the Greyhounds have scored 113 points, for an average of 37.6 points per win.
As they traveled to Rose Bud to fight with the Ramblers Oct. 6, the Greyhounds made sure their high-octane offense had a comfortable seat on the bus for the trip deep into White County territory.
Churning out nearly 600 yards of offense on the evening, Salem (3-3, 1-2) broke a two-game losing streak and also found its first 2-3A win of the year with a 48-36 victory over Rose Bud (2-4, 0-3) on the Ramblers' homecoming night.
The fact that Salem's ground game was clicking was of little surprise, as the trio of Zach Harber, Corey Tyler and Blake Hurst have had successful outings on a weekly basis for the Greyhounds six weeks into the season.
However, the Hounds finally got their passing game on track against Rose Bud, as quarterback Jeff Nelson and wideout Derek Estes both had banner games, seemingly picking up 20 yards at a time through the air. Nelson was 14-for-21 with 340 yards passing, while Estes reeled in eight balls for 183 yards in the contest.
"They (Nelson and Estes) both had huge games," said Greyhound Head Coach Wayne Guiltner. "The pasing game kind of presented itself as the game went on."
But Nelson also proved he can do it with his legs, as well.
Salem got the football to start the game against the Ramblers, who are in their first year of varsity football, and the Hounds wasted little time hitting the end zone.
On first-and-10 from the Salem 49-yard line, Nelson (83 yards rushing) shook loose for a 51-yard quarterback keeper that hit paydirt with 9:24 left in the first quarter. Clint Pleasant booted the PAT, and Salem grabbed a quick 7-0 lead.
Salem then recovered the ensuing kickoff, as Rose Bud bobbled the ball and finally lost it to the Hounds at the Rambler 41-yard line.
The Greyhounds trucked the ball all the way to the Rose Bud 3-yard line before a fumbled pitch got away from Salem, turning the ball over to the Ramblers at the 10.
Rose Bud returned the favor four plays later, as Zeb Prothro coughed up the ball, setting up Salem at the Rose Bud 34.
This time the Greyhounds cashed in. Harber (14 carries, 68 yards rushing) crossed the goal line on second-and-goal from the 3, giving Salem its second TD of the night. Pleasant's extra point gave his squad a 14-zip lead after one.
Rose Bud scored its first Homecoming points on the football field a couple of plays into the second quarter.
Zeb Prothro made up for his first-quarter fumble by diving in from three yards out at the 11:27 mark of the second. The 2-point conversion was good, narrowing Salem's lead to 14-8.
Not to worry.
On their next offensive series, the Hounds moved 70 yards in nine plays for a score.
Dustin Vaughn (three carries for 24 yards rushing, three catches for 68 yards receiving) blasted into the end zone on first-and-10 from the 11, helping to extend Salem's lead with 7:52 left until the half. Hurst (four carries, 23 yards rushing) carried in the 2-point try, giving the Hounds a 22-8 lead.
The Ramblers were not to be denied and moved 80 yards for a TD on their next possession.
Quarterback Zach Prothro broke off a 20-yard touchdown run with 3:02 showing on the clock to pull Rose Bud within eight, down 22-14.
However, Salem was also not to be denied one final score before intermission.
Getting the ball with under three minutes left, Salem headed downfield as Nelson and Estes played pitch and catch.
Nelson found Estes on a couple of long passes, one for 16 yards, the other for 23, that helped move the ball to the Rose Bud 29 with time ticking off the clock.
On the last snap of the half, Nelson found Estes all alone in the Rambler end zone and delivered a 29-yard TD strike with no time left on the halftime clock. The PAT missed, but the Hounds had extended their margin to 28-14 at the break.
The Ramblers made things interesting early in the third as their single-wing offense started humming right along.
Zach Prothro crashed across the goal line from four yards out at the 8:20 mark to once again pull Rose Bud within eight, at 28-20.
Salem's offense continued to hum as well, as the Greyhounds answered with an 88-yard scoring march of its own.
Vaughn hit paydirt from five yards out to wrap up the 12-play march on second-and-goal. The PAT was blocked, but Salem had stretched its advantage to 34-20.
Not to be outdone, the Salem defense rose up and held the Ramblers on a fourth-and-1 on Rose Bud's next possession.
Nelson then hit Vaughn with a 41-yard pass that placed the ball at the Rambler 2 as time ran out in the third quarter.
After a tote by Tyler (eight rushes, 35 yards), Colin Young finished the deal with a 1-yard TD plunge at the 11:10 mark of the fourth quarter. Tyler carried in the 2-point conversion to give the Hounds a 42-20 lead.
Down by 22, Rose Bud still wasn't done. The Ramblers used just six plays, all on the ground, to notch another touchdown.
Zach Prothro racked up a 5-yard TD pass to J.D. Felice at the 9:27 point and Andrew Maier ran in the 2-point try to give Rose Bud faint hope, as the Ramblers trailed 42-28.
"Our goal was to get up a couple of touchdowns on them and then put some of our younger guys in on defense," Guiltner said. "And that's what we did. For a first-year program (Rose Bud), they're a pretty good football team."
Salem's next offensive series ended with a turnover at the Rose Bud 35-yard line.
With the ball back in their hands, the Ramblers turned upfield and made it to the Greyhound 18 before Salem's defense dug in its heels.
Going for it on fourth-and-7 from the 18, the Ramblers were snuffed out when Ethan Pierce and Bobby Cochran wrapped up Zeb Prothro short of a first down, giving the football to Salem.
This stop energized the Greyhounds, and on the next snap Nelson hit Lance Powell with a screen pass that ended in an 80-yard touchdown. The point-after was no good, but Salem led by 20, 48-28.
Rose Bud posted one final TD on Homecoming night, as James Santos took the ensuing kickoff and ran it back 85 yards for a score. Santos also caught the 2-point conversion pass, rounding out the scoring and leaving Salem with a 48-36 victory.
Salem welcomes the second-ranked team in Class 3A, the Harding Academy Wildcats, to Greyhound Stadium Oct. 13.
"The biggest thing in playing Harding Academy is being able to disguise your defensive sets," Guiltner said. "They run the no-huddle offense and their quarterback reads the defense at the line of scrimmage and then audibles them into a play."
On offense the Hounds plan to stay the course and establish their ground game from the outset.
"You can't run a lot of misdirection against them. You have to go right at them," said Guiltner. "They've got such a combination of size and speed, and they're so well-coached that you're not going to pull many tricks on them."