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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Giant step forward

Friday, October 3, 2008

WHAM!: Salem's Kyle Berry (21) helps jar the football loose from Cedar Ridge running back Hunter Limbaugh in the Greyhounds' 37-point shutout of the T-Wolves Sept. 26. Photo/Mullins
Sometimes, the best way to take a step forward is to pause and take a step back first.

After opening the 2008 football season by dropping their first three games, that's just what the Salem Greyhounds did leading up to their week four road trip to Newark to face Cedar Ridge.

They went back to the basics of blocking and tackling in a series of physical practice sessions that began a couple of days after the Hounds dropped a 16-6 decision to Rector.

And apparently this back-to-the-drawing-board approach was just what the doctor ordered, because Salem picked up its first victory of the season by hammering Cedar Ridge 37-0 in 3-2A Conference play Sept. 26.

And in this one, it was the Greyhounds (1-3, 1-1) all the way, as Salem came out fired up, ready to hit someone other than the teammates they had been hitting in practice.

"I think the week of practice we had this week paid off. We had a lot of contact during practice to correct some of the mistakes we've been making (during the first three games)," Salem Head Coach Sammy Weir said. "We really buckled it up and was out on the practice field for about three hours (Tuesday). We kind of changed our attitude and got back to basics. I think that was really a factor for us. We played our best ballgame here tonight."

The Hounds were certainly clicking on all cylinders against the T-Wolves (0-4, 0-3).

After the Greyhounds' first drive of the evening was stopped near midfield, Clint Pleasant boomed a punt that was downed at the T-Wolves' 12-yard line.

This set the tone for the way Salem would control field position for the duration of the game.

Backed up to their own end zone, the T-Wolves couldn't get anything going and punted after a three-and-out.

Then the Greyhound offense got rolling, and it wouldn't stop until it had tallied up over 400 yards in offense.

Jason Huff ripped off a 52-yard run down the right sideline that took the ball all the way to the Cedar Ridge 15.

Three plays later, Ty Berry (13 carries, 77 yards) sprinted across the goal line from five yards out to give Salem its first lead of the year. Huff kicked the PAT and with 5:11 left in the first quarter, the Hounds were up 7-0.

"We had good field position tonight. Our punting game was really, really good. Clint Pleasant punted the ball well and our coverage was good. And I think that's one of the most important aspects of the game; it gives you field position one way or another," said Weir. "And we also blocked well and had some breaks. Our defense did a real good job of containing them. We executed well on defense and I was real pleased with that."

Then, that good field position came up in Salem's favor again, as Cedar Ridge took a huge gamble on its next possession.

Faced with a fourth-and-1 at their own 30-yard line, the T-Wolves rolled the bones and went for a first down.

Big mistake.

The big Salem defensive line snuffed quarterback Hayden Limbaugh's run, giving the Hounds the football 30 yards away fro another TD.

On second-and-9 from the 17, Salem quarterback Rocky Smith hit Skylar Jones with a nice screen pass, and Smith did the rest, bullying his way past a host of Cedar Ridge defenders into the end zone with 1:07 left in the first. Huff kicked the point-after to give the Greyhounds a 14-0 lead.

"We felt like we were quick as they were -- we didn't know about strength-wise -- but we knew we could use our quickness to our advantage," Weir said. "And we did that. We got in some open spaces and used our quickness."

Salem continued to pour it on in the second quarter.

Jones (nine carries, 204 yards) broke off an incredible 77-yard touchdown run on Salem's first snap of the second quarter. Starting at his own 23, Jones weaved in and out of traffic and hit paydirt down the left sideline at the 11:26 mark of the second. Huff's extra-point gave the Hounds a 21-zip lead.

Then it was time for the Greyhounds' special teams to shine.

On fourth-and-11 from the Cedar Ridge 35, the T-Wolves tried to get off a punt, but Jordan King broke through and blocked the punt, giving the Hounds the football at the 20-yard line.

Cedar Ridge held firm, but Huff did blast a 42-yard field goal that sent the teams to the half with the Greyhounds in total control, up 24-0.

To start the third quarter, Smith peeled off a big 31-yard run a quarterback keeper, pushing the ball to the Cedar Ridge 14-yard line. Ty Berry then pushed the football across the goal line from 10 yards out for Salem's first TD of the second half. The point-after was blocked, but Salem had extended its lead to 30-0.

Cedar Ridge just had no answer for Salem's defense, as the Greyhounds keep things contained at the point of attack, leaving the T-Wolves ball carriers nowhere to turn.

One snap into the fourth quarter and the Hounds had put the game on ice, with the mercy rule enforced, thanks to a nifty bit of running from Jones.

On second-and-7 from the Greyhound 13, Salem's offensive line tore open a hole big enough to drive a Mack truck through and Jones scampered 87 yards up the middle of the field, without Cedar Ridge laying a finger on him. Huff booted the point-after to wrap up the Hounds' 37-0 rout of the T-Wolves.

"I knew if the kids kept playing as hard as they've been playing it would come (a win)," said Weir. "And now they know how it feels. This should give them a lot of confidence in the weeks to come. The kids are just really excited."

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