There's nothing like some early season adversity to find out what kind of character a football team has.
Down double digits early in the game for the second week in a row, the Salem Greyhounds regrouped and came charging back Sept. 12 in their conference opener at Marked Tree.
The Indians came into the game riding a 34-game 3AA winning streak for one reason; deadly speed.
Despite losing two time All-State running back Anquion Williams and fleet quarterback Sugar Ray Jones to graduation, the Indians still are stocked with a stable of speedy backs as they proved in running their conference winning streak to 35 games with a 40-34 win over Salem.
Although the Greyhounds (0-2, 0-1) lost out to the five-time defending conference champs, their strength was nearly enough to counter the speed of the Indians.
The return of senior Woody Harlow, back from a concussion, certainly helped the Greyhounds play the physical style they enjoy, but in the end the quick strike ability of Marked Tree proved too much.
It took only three plays in less than a minute-and-a-half for Marked Tree (1-1, 1-0) to post the games' first score.
A 26-yard TD run by Patrick Powell gave Marked Tree a 7-0 lead at the 10:53 mark of the first.
The Greyhounds began a promising drive on their first series on offense, marching down to the Indian 16-yard line before junior quarterback Phillip Taylor (9 of 19, 148 yards) was intercepted to snuff out the drive.
One play later, Marked Tree held a 14-0 lead as quarterback Braden Malone ran for an 80-yard TD to put the Greyhounds back on their heels.
Less than three minutes later, the Indians notched yet another 80-yard touchdown run, this one from running back David Stacy to hold a 21-0 lead over the shellshocked Hounds.
"I think we came out expecting them to beat us like they have in the past," said Greyhound Head Coach Wayne Guiltner. "We finally settled down some and decided we could play with these guys."
Stacy (163), Malone (118) and Powell (112) all rushed for over 100 yards on the night for Marked Tree.
Dusting themselves off from the wreckage of the first quarter, the Greyhounds showed their mettle by scoring 14 points in the second quarter to keep the game from getting out of hand.
A big play from the Hounds' defensive line late in the first quarter set up Salem's first score in the second.
On second-and-4 from their own 26, the Indians tried a triple-reverse that was snuffed out by Salem, resulting in a fumble the Greyhounds pounced on.
With the ball at the Indian 11, the Greyhounds hit paydirt in seven plays as Harlow (52 yards) rumbled into the end zone on third-and-goal at the 8:49 mark. Taylor (51 yards rushing) ran in the two-point conversion as Marked Tree led 21-8.
The Indians weren't shut out of the second quarter scoring as Stacy turned a fourth-and-21 from the Greyhound 27 into a first-and-goal. Malone then punched the ball in to extend Marked Tree's lead to 27-8 at the 2:59 point.
It was Salem's turn next as they went 55 yards downfield to log their second score of the game.
The drive was fueled by a couple of clutch receptions from seniors Brandon Grass and James Wagner.
Taylor finished the drive with a 6-yard TD strike to senior wideout Kirk Chambers with 38 seconds left until the half.
Halftime came with Marked Tree on top 27-14 as Taylor picked off Malone to keep the Indians from getting another quick strike late in the second.
Inspired by their second quarter effort, the Greyhounds cashed in their first series of the third quarter for six points, the only score for either team in the third.
"We managed to move the ball all night," Guiltner said. "We passed more than we might have in the past, but it's hard to spot someone 21 points and come back."
Senior back Rick Cowart (70 yards) got Salem going with a pair of nice totes, and junior Lynn Harber capped the eight-play, 59-yard drive with a TD run to put the pressure on Marked Tree, as Salem edged within six, down 27-21.
Showing they can do more than just run, the Indians upped their advantage early in the fourth as Malone hit Willie Mitchell for a 31-yard touchdown pass to make the score 33-21, Indians.
Showing their resiliency once more, Salem kept within striking distance as Harber found the end zone again on a 4-yard run that narrowed Marked Tree's lead to 33-28.
Despite closing the gap repeatedly, Salem just couldn't claw their way on top as the Indians popped off another long touchdown run.
With 5:58 left in the game, Powell found the end zone from 40 yards out for his second score of the game, giving Marked Tree a 40-28 lead.
The Greyhounds, getting the ball back in their hands with 59 ticks on the clock, had six more points in their tank as Taylor finished a 38-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run at the 23-second mark. The PAT was wide, leaving the Indians in front 40-34.
Salem's hard fought comeback ended as Marked Tree claimed the ensuing onsides kick to run out the clock.
"The kids showed a lot of heart to fight back like that, and when we realized we were just as good as they were, we made a game of it," Guiltner said.
The Greyhounds open their home season Sept. 19 by hosting the Parkin Tigers.