Miscues, potent ground game by Thayer too much for Salem in 2005 opener
Turnovers are to football teams what curiosity is to cats.
Especially when stacked back-to-back.
Two consecutive turnovers on Salem's first two offensive series of the fourth period proved fatal, as the Ed Kelley era of Greyhound football began with a 36-14 loss to the Thayer Bobcats at Louis Bozman Stadium Sept. 2.
Takeaways was the name of the game in this year's edition of the annual border battle between these two schools that are separated by a short drive down Highway 9.
The Greyhounds' first score of the game came thanks to a miscue on Thayer's part, while the Bobcats broke open a competitive game by posting 22 unanswered points that all came off of Salem turnovers.
Thayer wasted no time in advancing the scoreboard for the first time on the year, taking the opening kickoff from Salem and moving 49 yards in 13 plays to hit paydirt. Michael Lowther crossed into the end zone from 3 yards out on first-and-goal at the 6:07 mark of the first period to put the Cats on top. Lowther had a huge game for Thayer, rushing 14 times for 91 of the Bobcats' 193 total yards on the ground. John Tollenaar hauled in the 2-point conversion pass from Thayer quarterback Brett Ward on a fade route that staked the Bobcats to an 8-0 lead.
As impressive as Thayer's offense was on its first series from scrimmage, the Cats' defense was just as stout, forcing Salem to back-to-back three-and-outs on the Hounds' first two possessions of the night.
Salem proved it knows a thing or two about the art of defense as Chad Willett picked off Ward from his spot in Salem's secondary and headed down the sideline to the end zone. Ward caught up with Willett and jarred the ball loose from Willett's grasp. Zack Harber was Johnny-on-the-spot for the Hounds as he fell on the ball at the Bobcat 6-yard-line, setting the Greyhounds up with a first-and-goal.
One play later, Willett burst into the end zone at the 9:14 point of the second quarter for Salem's first TD of the year. Willett also tacked on the 2-point conversion on a quarterback keeper to lock the contest at 8-all.
The Cats broke this deadlock with a touchdown right before the half that came via a Greyhound turnover.
Thayer's Dustin Gaines picked up a Greyhound fumble at the Salem 26, and four plays later Ward (67 yards rushing) crossed the goal line for the first time this season with 1:39 remaining until the half. Gaines (nine carries, 27 yards) reeled in a Ward pass for the 2-point conversion, giving Thayer a 16-8 advantage at intermission.
The Bobcats' first possession of the second half was similar to their first one of the game, as Thayer came out of the locker room and went 55 yards in 12 plays on their first offensive series of the third period, a drive that notched six points.
Ward (8-18, 72 yards passing) found Eric Burton in the end zone and hit him with a 15-yard touchdown pass at the 3:28 point of the third as the Bobcats stretched their lead. The 2-point attempt failed, but Thayer took a 22-8 lead into the final quarter of play.
Another strike against the Hounds' came three plays into the fourth quarter when a fumbled quarterback/center exchange by Salem ended up in the hands of Thayer's Zack Ary.
Six plays later, Ward pierced the end zone once again on a quarterback keeper on third-and-goal that sealed the deal for Thayer. Ward also posted the 2-point conversion on a keeper that pushed the Cats in front 30-8 with 9:04 left in the game.
If the Greyhounds had any hopes up mounting a comeback in the last nine minutes of the contest, those hopes were dashed as Salem turned the ball over for the second time in the fourth quarter.
Willett lost the ball on a bootleg and Tollenaar (42 yards receiving) scooped it up to give the Cats another shot at a score.
This miscue turned into gold for Thayer as Gaines found the end zone on fourth-and-goal from a yard out at the 5:07 mark that all but ended the Greyhounds bid for a win, as the Bobcats advantage stood at 36-8.
Not quite done, the Greyhounds did tack on another touchdown on a Wes James (62 yards rushing) run on first-and-goal from a yard out with 1:20 left to play. The ensuing 2-point conversion failed, and the final score ended in Thayer's favor, 36-14.
Jeff Nelson added 35 yards of rushing for Salem.