Following a disappointing loss on Sept. 9 the Salem Seminoles had a very "intense" week of practice, according to coach John Starr.
All the hard work showed as Salem marched easily toward the end zone on its first drive of a 14-7 win over Apalachee on Friday night.
Following a six-play scoring drive, which ate up 76 yards and resulted in an 8-yard touchdown run by Salem's Ahmad Mitchell, the Wildcats adjusted, but the Salem Seminoles' focus did not falter.
Both teams battled back and forth throughout the game with neither team reaching the other's 20-yard line until just before Salem's winning score in the fourth quarter.
The difference ended up being a turnover by the Wildcats (0-3) in their own territory. A rough week of practice helped Salem (2-2) prepare for such a critical play, following a 43-39 loss to Habersham Central.
"The last seven days have been very difficult," Starr said. "I haven't slept a lot and been pretty short with everybody. Maybe my family will get a break this weekend."
Apalachee didn't get a break from Starr or the Salem Seminoles Friday night, especially in the second half.
The Wildcats racked up 154 yards of offense in the first half, but managed just 42 in the second half; all coming off of 17 carries. The Salem coaching staff didn't make major changes at halftime, but did emphasize tackling.
"We told them at halftime it's going to come to a will to win, and who was going to get that one break," Starr said. "We were able to get that one break, and punch it in."
The Salem Seminoles defense didn't only hold Apalachee at bay in the second half, but also provided the spark the offense needed to break a 7-7 stalemate.
On third-and-23 from its own 34, Apalachee's Zay Henry ran up the middle, and fumbled the ball forward with Salem's Ryan George falling on it on the Wildcats' 30.
"I remember Ryan George jumping on the ball, but I'm not sure who ripped it loose," Starr said. "I'm just tickled that they did."
After the fumble, Salem was called for a 5-yard penalty, before Damion Gordon ran it 40-yards for the game-winning touchdown with 11:31 to play. It was the first time a team saw inside the 25-yard line since Stanley Williams' 40-yard touchdown run tied it at 7-7 for Apalachee with 2:01 left in the first quarter.