The Salem Seminoles (3-6, 2-5 8-AAAAA) were defeated 34-21 by the Cedar Shoals Jaguars (3-6, 3-4), in large part due to the number of explosive plays — mostly by Cedar Shoals tailback Adrian Washington — the Seminole defense allowed Friday night in Athens.
Every Cedar Shoals scoring drive featured at least one play of 20 or more yards (at 28-14).
"We felt like we were in some good places, but [Washington] was hard to stop," Salem head coach John Starr said. "I don't know. I wish we could've had a few more [stops]."
Though the game was tied 14-14 at halftime, Cedar Shoals asserted its dominance early in the second half.
The Jaguars' Trevor Burgess took took a squib kick to open the second half 75 yards up the right side of the field, which gave Cedar Shoals a 21-14 lead with 15 seconds gone in the second half.
Big plays would help the Jaguars extend the lead to 14 seven minutes later. A 38-yard pass by Cedar Shoals quarterback Greg Smith and a 22-yard run by Washington gave the Jaguars first-and-goal from the two-yard-line. Washington took the ball the final two yards on the next play to put Cedar Shoals up 28-14.
Salem inspired some hope with 5:22 left in the game, when quarterback Licash Lackey outran a rushing defensive end around the corner and scampered 10 yards for a touchdown. The score brought the Seminoles within seven, at 28-21, but Washington took a 34-yard run to the house on the next possession, putting the score out of reach at 34-21.
Washington finished the evening with 181 rush yards and three touchdowns to go along with 66 receiving yards.
"He can break a tackle, but the biggest thing was he was so fast," Starr said of Washington. "Not only was he big and hard to bring down with one person, but he's also a fast kid. He got to the edge a couple of times and we couldn't catch him."
Cedar Shoals opened the scoring in the waning moments of the first quarter. With roughly three minutes left in the first, Cedar Shoals' Smith scrambled for 28 yards to the Salem 30-yard-line. Washington took the ball the final 30 yards on the next play, putting Cedar Shoals up 7-0.
The second quarter proved more explosive than the first.
With a bit over 11 minutes left in the first half, Lackey ran a midline read option up the middle and strolled into the endzone untouched from 15 yards out to make the score 7-7.
Lackey went 15 for 30 passing for 155 yards and two interceptions, and rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
"I don't think he had any problems, it was just the way they were defending us," Starr said of Lackey's poor night throwing the ball. "They stayed on top of us and forced us to be patient inside. They stayed out there and wouldn't come inside for nothing."
At first-and-20 from its own 33-yard-line, the Jaguars' Washington took a pass in the flats 66 yards to the Salem one-yard-line. Ryan Huff punched the ball in for Cedar Shoals, giving the Jaguars a 14-7 lead.
However, Salem was able to tie the game before the half in a most unlikely scenario. The Seminoles had third-and-28 from the Jaguars' 47-yard-line when Lackey ran a speed-option, pitched the ball to Hasan Boddie as he was plastered by a Cedar Shoals defender, which allowed Boddie to break free and score a 47-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 14-14 going into halftime.
"Our kids played hard the whole night," Starr said. "There's not a whole lot to play for besides pride, but they stayed up and played as hard as they could. They played to the final whistle. And a lot of these guys are young, so they got some good game experieicen out of this."
Salem returns to action in its final game of 2013 season next Friday at home against Loganville.