SALEM 0, YELLVILLE-SUMMIT 35
There's little doubt this is a different group of Panthers.
A year after going winless and suffering through their worst season since the mid-80s, the Yellville-Summit Panthers have gotten back on track the first weeks of the 2006 season with a couple of impressive victories.
There's also little doubt this is a different group of Greyhounds.
Posting a win just three times all last season, the Salem Greyhounds have already recorded two wins for 2006, rolling over Westside and outgunning Batesville Southside.
These two programs, both finding their way back to the level of success they're used to enjoying, hooked up Sept. 29 at Greyhound Stadium in Salem for a 2-3A Conference matchup.
As it turned out, the Panthers (3-2, 2-0 in 2-3A) were the ones who looked like the team that was poised to take the next step toward completion of this restoration project, with Yellville-Summit blanking Salem (2-3, 0-2) 35-0.
Zeros have been wild for these two squads the past two weeks, with the Panthers recording their second straight shutout (after holding Marshall scoreless in a 35-0 Yellville win Sept. 22), while the Greyhounds were kept off the scoreboard for the second week in a row after losing to Perryville 22-0 Sept. 22.
Although the Panthers certainly had their way on the ground, racking up almost 375 yards rushing against the Greyhounds for the night, the final score might be a bit deceiving, as the contest was a dogfight until a crucial turning point midway into the third quarter.
With Salem looking a bit listless on offense, thanks to Yellville's constant pressure of Salem quarterback Jeff Nelson during the first two quarters, the Hounds fashioned their most impressive drive of the evening in the third period, looking to erase a 14-0 deficit.
Starting with the ball at their own 20, the Greyhounds headed into Panther territory, riding a huge 23-yard run from Zach Harber that took the ball to the Yellville 25-yard line.
A couple of plays later, Harber ripped off a 15-yard tote that gave the Hounds first-and-goal from the 10.
Then the Panther defense took over.
Salem got the ball inside the 1-yard line, but was stopped on three straight running plays, turning the ball over to Yellville, and more importantly, keeping the Hounds from a touchdown that might have changed the outcome of the game.
Instead, the Panthers went 99 yards in nine plays to put the game on ice, as Yellville quarterback Tim Murray scored his third TD of the evening, this one on an 11-yard keeper at the 1:44 point of the third. The PAT gave the Panthers a commanding 21-0 lead after three quarters.
Yellville finished off the deal with fourth-quarter touchdown runs from Mason Dickson and Tyler Sanders that capped the Panthers' 35-point victory.
It was evident from the game's outset that Yellville-Summit had no other plans than to run the ball all night. This plan worked to perfection, as the Panthers threw the ball just three times all game, while gaining three and four yards a carry all evening, keeping the Greyhound defenders on their heels.
Murray drew first blood for Yellville with an 18-yard quarterback keeper at the 8:45 mark of the first, scoring on the Panthers' first possession of the game. The PAT gave Yellville a 7-0 lead.
After Salem was forced to punt on its first possession of the night, Murray was at it again, this time on a 26-yard carry to paydirt at the 4:15 point of the first. The successful point-after gave the Panthers a 14-0 lead.
The Hounds showed promise moments later, as Dustin Vaughan ran the ensuing kickoff back to midfield.
However, Nelson was picked off a couple of plays later to end Salem's march onto Yellville's side of the field.
The Greyhound defense rose up and forced the first Panther punt of the night, and Salem did pick up its first first down of the game on its next offensive series.
The Hounds kept the ball for over five minutes, stitching together a nice-looking drive that got the ball to the Panther 37, where Salem was faced with a fourth-and-12.
Harber picked up five hard-earned yards on fourth down, but Salem was still short of the first down marker and turned the ball over to Yellville.
The Panthers then moved the ball to the Greyhound 34-yard line, primed for another score with just over a minute left until intermission.
However, the Salem defense, specifically Ethan Pierce and Kevin Fowler, had other ideas.
First, Pierce jacked up Murray for an 11-yard loss, as the Panther quarterback dropped back for his first pass attempt of the game.
Yellville did get the ball to the Greyhounds 15, when Fowler went to work.
Fowler sacked Murray for a big loss, dropping him at the 35-yard line.
Derek Estes closed the book on the first half when he batted down a Murray pass attempt near the end zone with five seconds left on the clock.
Down just 14-0 at the break, the Hounds came out with intent in the third, marching 80 yards before the Panther defense stood up and made the three biggest plays of the night, keeping Salem out of the end zone with a huge goal-line stand that paid off big in the Panther's shutout win.
The Greyhounds will look for their first conference win in a trip to first-year program Rose Bud Oct. 6.