For the third straight week, the second half was kind to the Apalachee football team. But it was anything but for Salem.
It came as a costly price for the Salem Seminoles who lost their fourth straight game, a streak that was last reached midway through the 2010 season, 20-0 on Friday night at R. Harold Harrison Sports Complex.
The Wildcats made it a hat trick in wins decided in the final two quarters of play, as they broke a scoreless halftime tie to rout Region 8-AAAAA foe Salem 20-0 on Friday at R. Harold Harrison Sports Complex.
After a 1-4 start to the season, Apalachee (4-4, 3-3 Region 8-AAAAA) has won its last three games, all of them coming on second-half surges. The Wildcats rallied from 10-point and seven-point deficits in their past two games.
The two teams remained deadlocked at 0-0 at two quarters after a first half that featured plenty of time around the goal line, but nothing to show for it. The two teams combined for five first-and-goal situations at halftime, but couldn’t tack on the extra yards for the touchdown.
“We were awfully disappointed at halftime with the way things had gone, especially when you had those opportunities,” Wildcats coach Shane Davis said. “When it’s 0-0 and halftime and you feel like you’ve played well at halftime, it’s one thing. When you feel like you missed some points out there, you feel different.”
The near-misses started early, including the first two drives of the game. Apalachee opened the game with a 36-yard march that put it on the Salem’s three-yard line, only for Seminole defender Ahmad Mitchell to scoop up a goal-line fumble and break into open territory. By the time Wildcats’ quarterback Clint Ashe brought him from a full-speed sprint, he had made his way to Apalachee five-yard-line.
That’s where Salem received its first end zone denial. The Seminoles reached the goal line and nearly scored before a holding call pushed them back to the Apalachee’s 14. Two plays later, Johnny Thompson recorded a fumble to keep the game knotted at zero.
The Wildcats found themselves back in Salem’s red zone for a second time to start the second quarter, but were held up again at the six-yard line and still couldn’t score on a field goal attempt by Christian Vazquez.
One the very next drive, Salem echoed Apalachee’s shortcoming. The Seminoles’ 67-yard drive stalled out on the Wildcats’ 13-yard line and the 27-yard field goal that followed went wide left of the uprights.
As if things couldn’t get more frustrating for the Apalachee offense, its final attempt to score before halftime was halted once again. The Wildcats marched 80-yards downfield, picking up five first downs in the process, but Salem’s defense prevented Ashe from scoring the one-yard quarterback keeper on the final play of the half in a fourth-and-goal situation.
“We were just a few plays from making it a big game out of the first half,” Ashe said. “We said that we had to score when we were at the goal line and we couldn’t turn it over like that.”
And that’s where things began to click. On just the second play of its first drive of the game, Apalachee put the first points of the game on the scoreboard when Ashe connected with Monterian Smith for a 39-yard reception.
On their next drive, the Wildcats used solid field position after a weak Salem punt and needed only 50 yards to take a 12-0 lead on a two-yard run by Eric Tanner.
Smith and Tanner proved to be Apalachee’s primary weapons, combining for 200 yards on 28 carries.
“[Offensive coordinator Joel Miller] does a great job of calling our offense,” Davis said. “Our game plan coming in is to take what they give us off the line. Tonight it just worked that a few of them had close to 100 yards.”
Ashe was involved a second touchdown on the first play of the fourth-quarter, capping off a drive with a 2-yard quarterback keeper to put the Wildcats up by 20.
The senior signal caller finished the game 5-for-7 with 127 yards and a touchdown. Four of his receptions went to Jermaine Smith, who finished the night with 88 yards. He pulled down a 42-yard pass to set up Ashe’s late touchdown.
Salem was limited to just 167 yards and was led by Antone Lenard’s 35 yards on eight carries. Quarterback Scott Jordon took over normal starter Darius Gordon at half time and went 5-for-13 with 48 yards.
The Seminoles are losers of four straight and will try to end their skid next Friday against Cedar Shoals.