It was a good day to do laundry as penalty flags were flying early and often during the Salem Seminoles 27-7 win over region opponent Apalachee.
In between the penalties, the Seminoles, led by senior quarterback Licash Lackey, did enough right to improve their season record to 3-5, 2-4 in Region 8-AAAAA.
“It was good to come out of there with a win,” Salem coach, John Starr said. “We had an off week – a lot of time to get ready for this game. And, I thought we came out a bit rusty early on. But, our kids played through it and made plays when the needed to.”
Unfortunately for Apalachee, its best play of the night was its first, as quarterback Bryan Wilson hit wideout Jody Mathis for a 64-yard touchdown pass to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. Wilson was 7-of-18 passing for 159 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
As coach Starr said, the Seminoles were rusty early. Its first series was three plays and a punt. Salem’s second series was even worse, as they had a 15-yard personal foul penalty, a bench warning and then an ill-advised pass from Lackey that was intercepted by Apalachee defensive back, Devonte Vinson.
Salem finally got on the scoreboard with 8:30 remaining in the second quarter when Lackey (5-10-93, one touchdown, two interceptions) tossed a 49-yard touchdown pass to Robbie Cyrus. Lackey’s pass was tipped, but an alert Cyrus kept his wits, snagged the ball and scampered to the end zone. The two-point conversion failed and Apalachee took a 7-6 lead into halftime.
Both teams sputtered to start the second half. Salem receivers dropped two passes on its first series and had to punt. Then, the Wildcats couldn’t get anything going offensively and were going to punt when the ball was snapped over the punter’s head. The Seminoles recovered the ball on the Apalachee 1-yard line. From there, sophomore running back, Tyriano Greene (nine rushes, 27 yards) took the ball in for the touchdown. Lackey ran for the two-point conversion, and Salem led 14-7 after three quarters.
The Seminoles had a chance to add more points after a short Wildcat punt gave Salem the ball at the Apalachee 39. But, Lackey threw a floater that was picked off by Kintavious Merritt to quash any Seminole threat.
In the fourth quarter, however, Salem showed the rust had come off.
At the 9:02 mark, and the ball on Apalachee’s 36-yard line, Lackey sprinted left, faked a pitch to a trailing back, and ran untouched into the end zone for a 20-7 Seminole lead (PAT failed).
By that point, the Wildcats game was a story of “what ifs?” They outgained Salem 321-275, but committed nine penalties for 85 yards – several of them, including an intentional grounding by Wilson, coming on crucial third downs.
“We just didn’t do enough in the second half, offensively,” Apalachee coach, Shane Davis, lamented. “When you’re a team fighting to win a game, you got to continue to do things right. We’re not an explosive offense. And, when you’re not, you can’t put yourself in long yardage situations. We had some holding calls - some offside’s calls – and you just can’t do that, especially when you’re still in the game.
Apalachee had another chance to put points on the board, but failed to get the first down on fourth-and-five, giving the ball back to the Seminoles. Two plays later, Lackey faked an inside handoff to the left, ran right and didn’t stop until he was in the end zone for a 32-yard TD. The point after was good to make it 27-7, and an interception by Salem’s Quintavious Byrd with 1:50 left sealed the game for the Seminoles.
There may have been a lot of laundry thrown around at Salem’s stadium. But, in the end, it was the Seminoles that washed away the stains of last year’s 20-0 defeat and took the 27-7 victory.