CANTON - For much of the past three weeks the Salem Quakers had been forced to keep up with explosive run games that wore down an inexperienced defense and broke loose with big plays.
Friday night against Canton South, with the running game kept in check for much of the evening, it was an aerial assault that claimed the Quakers in a 46-15 loss to the Wildcats.
"That quarterback could really wing it," Salem head coach Ron Johnson said. "Their receivers made contested throws. I think our defense held them to negative rushing yards in the first half, but they played well."
Early on, it looked as if the Quakers were going to be able to take advantage of the Wildcat secondary with their speed at the skill positions.
The Quaker offense had the opportunity to make plays. Twice in the opening quarter Quaker receivers found themselves behind the Wildcat secondary, but Trace Jenkins wasn't able to hook-up with his receiver for the big play.
"Jake (Carner) got over top of them, Brendan Webb got overtop," Johnson said. "We had opportunities to get on the board starting with the first play of the game. We just have to pitch it and catch it and finish plays. Just like they made plays tonight, in time we're going to be making those plays."
Josh Lyon led the Wildcats on their first drive of the game, highlighted by a 36-yard pass to Armond Fontes that resulted in points.
"He had a rough go of it last year, but he's got ten games under his belt now. He's making good decisions," Canton South head coach Moe Daniska said. "He understands the offense well, and he doesn't turn the ball over. He does a good job managing the game and does a good job getting us in and out of the right plays."
John Hasleem, who replaced Lyon who left for one play with an injury, connected on a pass with Brando Fittro on fourth down to set the Wildcats up with first-and-goal at the two-yard line.
Josh Kenny plunged in from two-yards out on the next play to give Canton South the early lead.
Canton South's potent passing attack caused fits for the Quaker defensive backs all evening.
The Wildcats made it 13-0 with a quick strike from Lyons to Alec Eller for a 64-yard touchdown pass. Lyons was able to use his pump-fakes to his advantage and catch the Quakers when they were most vulnerable.
Lyon also showed his value on special teams placing a punt inside of the five-yard-line to back the Quakers up against their own goaline mid-way through the second quarter.
The Wildcats, who make a living on making teams pay off of turnovers, did so again on Friday night. After an acrobatic interception by Dejon Newell set Canton South up deep in Quaker territory, Lyon and company only needed one play to put up more points, finding Noah Mallen for a 19-yard score.
The Wildcats were plus-11 in the turnover margin coming into Friday night, and forced three more against Salem.
Lyon added a third score through the air, finding Mark Nicoletti on a slant route from ten yards out to cap the scoring in the first half.
Lyon directed a scoring drive to open the second half, zipping passes to Mallen and Nicoletti to lead the Wildcats into the red zone. Kenny finished off the drive with his second score of the game.
Salem's offense began to pick things up and move the football with a drive in the fourth quarter, but that momentum stalled and the Wildcats took over and marched down the field for another score.
Deonte Settles slipped into the end zone for his first score of the game to make it 39-0.
Once again the Quakers wouldn't roll over, as the offense kept plugging away and the special teams that Johnson has emphasized all season long broke through.
Haedan Panezott got the Quakers on the board in the fourth quarter with a 63-yard jaunt. Panezott took the hand-off from Jenkins and outran the Wildcat secondary en route to the score.
"It was just an inside run, and he hit it 1,000 miles an hour," Johnson said. "The offensive line did a great job and opened up some things. He's one of our fastest guys and did a nice job."
Marcus Crittenden later took a kickoff 90-yards down the left sideline for a score, showing a combination of balance and breakaway speed as he toed the sideline in front of the Quaker bench.
"They're not going to quit on themselves and they're certainly not going to quit for the name on the front of that jersey," Johnson said. "So we are going to make sure that we play hard and represent this community the right way every time we hit the field."
Salem (0-6, 0-3 NBC) returns home Friday for homecoming against Alliance.