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Monday, May 2, 2016

Greyhounds steal win in closing seconds

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Junior Heath Goodman grabs an interception against the Panthers. Photo/Phillips [Order this photo]
The Salem Greyhounds' Friday night game at Yellville-Summit on Sept. 7, went from being a simple away game, to becoming a two-night defensive struggle with the Hounds coming out on top: 8-7.

The game was postponed from Friday night due to lightning and heavy thunderstorms in the Yellville area. After the game was cancled Salem had to drive the 60 miles back home, and come back the next night.

When play finally commenced both teams looked flat at times during what became a defensive battle, but the Greyhounds were able to top the Panthers.

Head coach Cody Curtis said the extra trip to Yellville wasn't why the Hounds didn't play their best game.

"It wasn't the trip. Those guys are a good football team. They have good offensive and defensive lines but we wore them down. That was our key to winning, wear them down, and we had the fuel at the end to win it. That's just a good football team and a good game," Curtis said.

Salem opened the game with the ball on their own 20 yard line after a touchback on the kickoff. The Hounds would drive 83 yards in six plays before junior fullback Augustus Freeman fumbled on the seven yard line, giving the Panthers the ball with 7:47 left in the first quarter.

Yellville-Summit's first possession would end the same way, when senior running back and linebacker J.J. Gray recovered a Panthers fumble.

The Hounds started their next drive with great field position at the Panthers' 25 yard line. But four plays later Salem's junior quarterback Dillon Freeman was sacked on fourth down to give the Panthers the ball back with 3:40 left in the first. The first quarter ended with a tie score of 0-0.

Hounds senior linebacker Justus Sparks would get his first interception of the season with 5:21 left in the half and Salem took the ball at Yellville's 38 yard line, but was unable to score any points.

The final play of the first half was a Hail Mary thrown by Panthers senior quarterback Alex Beck; the pass would be caught, but not by a Panther. Instead, Salem junior Layne Kirkland would get the second interception of the day on Beck.

At the end of the first half, neither team had scored.

With 6:11 left in the third quarter, Yellville-Summit took the ball for their most successful drive of the night. The Panthers took the ball at their own 36 yard line and would drive 74 yard for a touchdown in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead. Panthers' junior Seth Morgan ran the ball into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.

Most of the fourth quarter would be the same story for the Greyhounds; one step forward and five to fifteen yards back. The Hounds were plagued with penalties throughout the game, and seemingly had yellow flags thrown on every positive play.

With 6:15 left in the game, Beck threw his third interception of the game, this time to Salem senior Heath Goodman. But the pesky yellow flags were back the next play, as the Hounds were backed up 15 yards on the first play of the drive for clipping.

"We gotta cut out penalties. They're gonna get us beat. We have to be more disciplined. But you can make excuses about it, or you can just overcome; and we just overcame," Curtis said.

After three plays, Turner threw his second interception of the game. Despite the turnover, that's where things turned around for the Greyhounds.

The Panthers took possession at Salem's 18 yard line with 5:40 to left to play in the game. After three plays, Yellville had only advanced one yard and were faced with a critical fourth and nine. Rather than go for the first down, Yellville head coach Calvin Mallett showed tremendous faith in his kicker and went for a 35-yard field goal to ice the game.

A few moments later it was obvious his faith had been misplaced, as Salem's offense took the field after a missed field goal.

With 3:14 left in the game and no timeouts, it seemed unlikely that Salem would pull off the 80-yard drive needed to score a potential game winning or tying touchdown.

No matter what the odds, senior Blake Hensley said he was confident in his team.

"We're gonna win this," Hensley said.

The drive started strong with Turner and Goodman hooking up on a 22 yard pass play that immediately made the daunting task the team faced, seem manageable.

On the second play of the drive, Turner tossed a laser-beam at junior Dakota Reynolds for a gain of six yards. The third play was less positive as Turner took a sack, but it resulted in a loss of only one yard.

­Senior Nathan King caught a pass to advance the ball beyond mid-field on the fourth play. On the fifth play, Turner faced a heavy blitz but was able to scamper out of the pocket and get back to the line of scrimmage before being tackled but a holding penalty would cost the team ten yards.

A J.J. Gray rush, followed by a pass from Turner to Sparks got the Hounds within striking distance. The next play started from Yellville's 27-yard line and another heavy rush from the Panthers forced Turner to throw the ball away.

On the next play, Hensley was the recipient of a pass that brought the Hounds inside the ten yard line.

For the next four minutes, confusion ruled; as the referees stopped play, with no explination from the refs.

J.J. Gray took a handoff on the first play after the long pause, and ran to the two yard line before being knocked out of bounds by a host of Panthers.

With 47 seconds left in the game, Turner attempted a quarterback sneak, and was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. On the next play, a similar play call ended with a very different result as Turner scrambled into the end zone with 16 seconds left in the ball game.

In Arkansas high school football, non-conference games can not go to overtime. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, it is ruled a tie. After the touchdown, Curtis didn't hesitate to attempt a two point conversion.

The Hounds lined up on the three yard line to decide the game. If they got into the end zone, Salem won. If they didn't, it would be a long ride home.

With the entire stadium on it's feet, Turner took the snap, scrambled to his left and found Hensley wide open in the back of the end zone. Chaos ensued as soon as the referees raised their arms, signaling the play was good.

Curtis said he went for two with complete faith in his team.

"We were going for the victory. That's it," Curtis said. "You have to give the boys faith that they can do it, and they did it. We needed that win. That'll be big for us in the rest of the season."

Turner was six for six on completions on the final drive, and Hensley said his timing was perfect.

"He stepped up and became a leader in the fourth quarter, and it couldn't have come at a better time," Hensley said.

After the horn blew to end the game, Salem's entire roster of players and coaches lined up on the goal line and sprinted to the other goal line in celebration. Gray was first into the end zone, followed shortly by Curtis, then the rest of the team.

Curtis said the team played well and it was a memorable moment for him, as he went to 2-0 as a head coach.

"I'm about to have a heart attack. It's a great feeling and that's the best win I've ever been a part of in my life," Curtis said.

Hensley said this game was much more difficult game than last week's 46-0 thumping of Mountain View.

Salem will travel to Mayflower on September 14.

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