The Salem Greyhounds' football season may be over, but the team will be remembered in the school's record book for years to come.
The 11-1 Greyhounds only loss came to the Junction City Dragons, a team with comparable size, speed and strength. Head coach Cody Curtis said the game could have gone either way, and will not be a stain on an otherwise perfect season.
"When you play a team like Junction City who has athletes as good as yours from side line to side line and comparable athleticism, the game is about momentum. It's about who can play mistake free for 48 minutes," Curtis said. "They had some mistakes but they had a lot of momentum. We were running the ball five yards a play every time, but they kept taking the ball away from us. That really takes the wind out of our sails. We moved the ball well all game, we just had some turnovers, and you can't have that and win against a good team. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. We felt like we were prepared, but we just had some opportunities taken from us."
The Hounds will lose eight seniors to graduation before next season. All eight played significant minutes, and several started on offense and defense.
"It's been a great year and a great ride and I really appreciate the dedication. As coaches, it made our jobs easy to not worry about all the little things you sometimes have to worry about like off the field stuff," Curtis said. "It's been a great year in all aspects. They've been really focused. Their film study is diligent, and they take care of business on and off the field. We have to build from that."
Without this years' seniors to guide them, Salem's current juniors will have to step up and lead next season; a task Curtis thinks will work well. Curtis also said the seniors have set a high bar of expectation.
"[The team] preformed exceptionally well this season. A ten win regular season, then a playoff win; they played extremely well. It was great to be a part of that. They set the bar high, 11 wins here is the most ever. That's now the mark that every team from here on will try to pass," Curtis said. "Our eight seniors are all great players, and will be missed dearly. These seniors were my first group of seventh graders. Getting to see them mature and grow on and off the field makes you feel good. We're going to miss what our seniors bring. We'll have to replace three starting defensive linemen and two linebackers. I think we have a chance to be right back to where we were this season next year."
Among those returning juniors will be starting quarterback Dillon Turner who had 95 completetions on 178 passes for 1,286 yards and 15 touchdowns. The tandem rushing attack of juniors J.J. Gray and Augustus Freeman combined for nearly 2,000 rushing yards this sear along with 17 touchdowns (Gray had over 1100 yards). Turner added 518 rushing yards, and 11 touchdowns on 107 carries. Freeman was also this year's sack leader with 12.
Also returning will be the statistically favorite target for Turner, junior Heath Goodman who caught 28 passes for 451 yards and eight touchdowns, including a 95 yard touchdown catch against Bigelow.
Defensively the Hounds will have to replace several key players, but junior Dakota Reynolds should be back. Reynolds led the team with 94 total tackles. Junior Layne Kirkland was tied for fourth most tackles this season with 60. Kirkland also tied senior Nathan King for most interceptions, Both had seven, and Goodman had six.
So regardless of what the team is losing, next year's Salem Greyhounds have a lot of potential as well.
Curtis said he hopes the team has one particular problem again next season.
"We'd love to have that problem again next year, 'what time are we gonna practice on Thanksgiving?' Thank you to the coaching staff, the administration, the players, the parents. I just want to say we appreciate the support and we look forward to seeing everyone again in 2013," Curtis said.