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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Kings of England

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One of the most important characteristics of a good football team is resiliency.

The ability to bounce back from a tough loss can not be overstated.

And the 2011 Salem Greyhounds look to have more bounce in them than a sack of Super Balls.

Just a week after they closed out the regular season with a hard-fought loss to the McCrory Jaguars, the Hounds responded by doing something that had been done only one time before in school history.

They won a playoff game.

Overcoming a sluggish second quarter, Salem (9-2) took care of business in the second half of play, resulting in a 35-14 victory over the England Lions (5-6) Nov. 11 at Greyhound Stadium, in the opening round of the state tournament.

"We're very proud of this win. Our guys played hard and they deserve it," said Salem Head Coach Sammy Weir. "It was an exciting ballgame and you have to give all the credit in the world to England. They came out and gave us a great game. But our kids stood up when they had to. They just played real good football."

Salem, which entered into the Class 2A playoffs as the third seed from the 3-2A Conference, now gets a road date with the state's top-ranked 2A team on Nov. 18, the Magazine Rattlers.

Down by a point to England at the half, after the Lions scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter, Salem came out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter.

Especially on defense, as the Greyhounds held England to just eight yards of total offense in the third.

The Lions mustered just 60 yards of offense in the second half as Salem turned the screws on England.

The Greyhounds jumped in front early, using two first quarter touchdowns to post a 13-0 lead.

Dylan Turner (12 carries, 64 yards) got Salem on the scoreboard with a 1-yard quarterback keeper at the 3:25 point of the first. Jesse James kicked the PAT to give Salem a 7-0 lead.

This scoring drive was jump-started after England tried a fake punt on fourth-and-6, a trick that was snuffed out by Layne Kirkland and Tyler Cawvey.

England's next possession ended when Hunter Medling fell on a fumble, giving Salem the ball at the Lions' 24-yard line.

Five plays later, Augustus Freeman (11 carries, 57 yards) broke across the goal line from a yard out for Salem's second score of the frame.

The extra-point was no good, but the Hounds led 13-0 after one.

Things didn't go so well for the home team in the second, as Salem turned the ball over twice, and England got back in the game with a pair of touchdowns.

Quinton Woods capped an 11-play, 77-yard drive for the Lions with a 16-yard touchdown run at the 6:30 mark of the second.

With the PAT, England pulled within 13-7.

The Lions then took the lead with a shade over a minute left until the half, when Woods ran in from three yards out.

The Lions' last drive of the half ended with a fumble that was recovered by Cody Barnett, but the visitors had managed to grab a 14-13 lead at intermission.

"We had a letdown in the second quarter, where we kind of lost our composure and didn't gain it back quick enough," Weir said. "And they caught up with us. And at the half we went and talked about it being now or never. The bottom line is, talk only gets you so far. But we came out in the second half and played Greyhound football."

That "Greyhound football" started with a quick, three-play drive that spanned 45 yards on the ground.

J.J. Gray (19 carries, 186 yards) started the march off with a big run and the drive ended with a 23-yard TD run by Nick Gaskins to open the third.

Turner hit Justus Sparks with the 2-point conversion pass to give the lead back to the Hounds at 21-14.

Later in the third, Salem used a 12-play, 55-yard drive to pad its margin. Turner ran in from five yards out with 21 ticks left in the third to boost the Greyhounds in front 27-14.

England fumbled once in the third, and Cawvey was there to fall on the ball for the Greyhounds.

Turner posted his third rushing touchdown of the night, this one coming with 5:30 left in the game, to wrap up Salem's big win. Sparks caught the 2-point conversion pass to put the ice on the Greyhounds' 35-14 victory.

Pretty impressive for a team that saw its regular season end with a tough loss to McCrory.

"We knew McCrory was an exceptional football team and we did the best we could against them," said Weir. "We weren't going to get down just because we lost to them. And now this one is (England) over. It's history and we've got to get ready to play Magazine, the top team in our class. It's exciting."

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