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Indian ground game too potent for junior Hounds

Thursday, September 11, 2003

In the world of sports, sticking to what you do best and doing it until the other team stops you is usually a good formula for success.

Such was the case Sept. 4 as the Salem junior Greyhounds played host to the Marked Tree junior Indians in the first game, and conference opener, for both squads.

The junior Indians came out on top 28-6 behind 359 yards of total offense, all on the ground.

Marked Tree's (1-0) ground attack was on display early as they took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards in seven plays to take a 6-0 lead with 5:00 left in the first quarter.

The junior Greyhounds (0-1) made it as far as the Marked Tree 35-yard line on their first possession of the contest, before failing on a fourth-and-1/2-yard try, turning the ball over to the junior Indians late in the quarter.

Wasting little time, Marked Tree culminated a four-play, 59-yard drive with a touchdown at the 30-second mark of the quarter. After failing on their first two-point conversion, the second one was good, giving the junior Indians a 14-0 lead.

With the ball back in their hands early in the second quarter, the junior Greyhounds went on a lengthy march of their own, a drive aided by a Marked Tree penalty.

Facing a fourth-and-long from their own 27, the junior Hounds punted the ball, but a roughing-the-kicker call against Marked Tree gave Salem possession of the ball back, along with an automatic first down at their 42-yard line.

Finding the going on the ground kind of tough, the junior Hounds turned to the air with some success.

Ninth-grade quarterback Jeff Nelson (7-for-15, 71 yards) connected with classmate Derek Estes (five catches, 51 yards) for three first downs during the junior Greyhound drive.

This drive stalled out at the Marked Tree 8-yard line with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-7, giving the ball over to the junior Indians on downs.

With 2:25 until the half, the junior Indians had designs on another scoring drive, but the Salem defense had designs on creating a turnover to get their hands on the ball again.

On first-and-10 from their own 29, the junior Indians went away from their bread-and-butter running game and attempted a rare pass, resulting in disaster.

Ninth-grader Josh Bontrager picked the pass off from his defensive back slot and returned the ball to the Marked Tree 13.

Bontrager was rewarded for his good defensive effort two plays later as Nelson found him in the back of the end zone for a 6-yard TD pass that closed the gap a bit, as Salem went to the locker room down 14-6 at halftime.

Unfortunately for the junior Hounds, they couldn't carry this momentum into the second half of play.

After Salem's first offensive series of the third quarter ended with an interception, Marked Tree took the ball and drove 43 yards for a score that padded their lead to 20-6.

Ninth-grader Zach Harber denied the Marked Tree two-point conversion, wrapping up the ball carrier short of the end zone.

The junior Indians added a final score late in the fourth quarter, going 65 yards in 10 plays to move on top 28-6 with 2:29 left in the game.

This proved to be the final score as Nelson was picked off for the second time in the half on Salem's next possession, leaving Marked Tree to run out the clock and take a 28-6 conference victory home with them.

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