The only thing standing between a possible trip to the post-season playoffs and the Salem Greyhounds was a Halloween meeting at home with the Earle Bulldogs.
On the other side of the coin, the Bulldogs knew victory at Salem would lock up a playoff berth for them, setting up a winner-takes-all game on the gridiron.
This was nothing new for the Greyhounds, as last year they were involved with just such a showdown when a loss to Palestine-Wheatley kept Salem from taking a trip to November's post season. Unfortunately for Salem, the contest with Earle ended the same way as last year's showdown did, this time a 26-0 Bulldog win, keeping the Greyhounds from participating in the state playoffs.
"We played well, especially in the first half," said Greyhound Head Coach Wayne Guiltner.
The first half was a classic game of field position, before Earle found the surest path to the goal line in the second half was straight up the middle of the field behind the Moody brothers, Bobby and Marcello.
The Greyhounds' second possession of the first quarter started in good field position thanks to a big special teams play from Kyle Estes.
On fourth-and-9 from their own 34, Earle was forced to punt, and the snap went by the Bulldogs' punter, with Estes recovering the ball at the Earle 21.
Salem couldn't capitalize on this as John Arrington came up a little short on a 31-yard field goal attempt.
The Bulldogs got their ground game on track late in the second quarter, moving 71 yards in 14 plays, all on the ground.
Bobby Moody hit paydirt from 9 yards out on first-and-goal with 45 seconds left until the half to put Earle up 6-0.
The Greyhound offense never looked totally in sync on the night, more due to injury than to the Bulldogs' defensive efforts.
Quarterback Phillip Taylor, who banged up his throwing shoulder against Cross County last week, played but lined up mostly at running back or split-out, due to his inability to throw the ball.
Woody Harlow and Wes James traded off most of the quarterbacking duties for the Greyhounds, especially on passing downs.
"We were kind of banged up going into the game, and we had a bunch of kids who had to go both ways for the whole game," Guiltner.
Trailing 6-0 to open the second half, the Greyhounds tried a pooch kick to begin the third, but the Bulldogs recovered the ball at their own 44.
Salem held Earle on this series, forcing the Bulldogs to punt.
Earle's next series on offense looked a little different as Moody lined up in shotgun formation for the first time on the night.
This was also the last time Earle broke from their bread-and-butter running alignment as James picked off Moody at the Bulldog 34, giving the Greyhounds their deepest penetration of the game.
The Hounds moved the ball to the Earle 16 behind Rick Cowart's running before disaster struck.
Already flagged for illegal participation on the drive, the Greyhounds incurred three illegal procedure penalties, pushing them back to the Earle 26, faced with fourth-and-20.
Harlow's pass on fourth down fell incomplete, giving Earle the ball back.
The Bulldogs were kept out of the end zone in the third, but six plays into the last quarter, Bobby Moody went straight ahead through the Greyhound defensive line for a 4-yard TD at the 9:42 mark to put Earle in front 12-0.
Still in the game, the Greyhounds just couldn't muster a march onto the Bulldogs' side of the field in the fourth.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 20-0 with 2:49 left in the game on a 34-yard scamper from Marcello Moody.
After Salem's last three-and-out series of the night, Earle tacked on one last score with four seconds left on the clock on a 2-yard carry by Randy Wilson to make the final score Earle 26, Salem 0.