Clarke Central scored 30 seconds into Friday's 52-14 win over Salem, and didn't let up from that point forward.
But Salem Coach John Starr said the game was lost even before then.
"You can't go out there wide-eyed in a game like this," Starr said. "You've got to know you're going to be in a physical battle and you have to prepare yourself all week that it is going to be a physical battle. Our guys didn't understand that, obviously."
Quenshaun Watson showed that on the first play of scrimmage as he sprinted 90 yards to put the Gladiators (5-1) on top 7-0.
It was one of four touchdowns by Watson, who had three on the ground and one on a catch. The senior running back finished with 162 yards on 13 carries and 60 more on a touchdown catch.
"He ran a mile because our guys did not step up and hit him in the mouth," Starr said. "We had guys there but they could not step up and hit him in the mouth."
Watson and the Gladiators saw a slightly different team Friday than the Salem Seminoles' squad that had won three straight heading in, but Starr did not want to use that as an excuse. Salem (4-3) was without several key players, including its halfback, fullback, tight end, members of the defensive line and a middle linebacker.
"We can't make excuses because we have a few guys hurt or a few guys out," Starr said. "When you go to war you're going to have casualties and somebody has got to be man enough to step up and carry it. And we couldn't find anybody to be man enough and step up and carry this team tonight."
Clarke Central scored on its first three possessions as Watson added TD runs of 4 and 11 yards.
Salem finally forced a punt with 2 minutes left in the second quarter. However, the Gladiators didn't punt the rest of the game.
Clarke Central finished with 375 yards of offense, compared to 276 yards by the Salem Seminoles. Che'Darious Robinson led the way with 98 yards on 10 carries, and a 50-ayd touchdown run to prevent the shutout with 3:35 left in the third quarter. Daniel Logan Sweat had Salem's other touchdown on a 1-yard catch from Damion Gordon with 19.4 seconds left in the game.
Salem will look to bounce back from what Starr called an "embarrassing" performance at Cedar Shoals Friday.