ALLIANCE - A popular saying among football coaches is that if a team alternates between two starting quarterbacks, it may as well not have any. It's a theory that Salem coach Ron Johnson is holding firm to as he prepares the Quakers for their second Northeastern Buckeye Conference game at Alliance tonight.
Trace Jenkins-who has started under center for the past year and a half-suffered an injury in the first half of the Quakers 41-28 loss to Louisville last Friday.
Johnson turned to backup Matthew Weingart in the second half. The sophomore responded by completing 11-of-18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Quakers-who were down 34-7 after three quarters-rallied to make the score respectable. Johnson said, however, there is no dilemma at quarterback. If Jenkins is healthy he will start tonight against Alliance without question.
"Matt is a pure drop-back passer and did an excellent job in the second half, but I do not believe in alternating quarterbacks," Johnson said. "Trace is our starter and if he can play, he will start. We'll have to evaluate how he feels, it will probably be a gametime decision."
No matter who starts under center, Johnson knows he will be up against a hungry opponent in Alliance. The Aviators-like the Quakers-come into the game with a record of 2-2 with back-to-back losses. They are coming off a 21-19 loss to Minerva when a late field goal sailed wide left.
"They are a very athletic fast team," Johnson said. "They will be wanting to get their first conference win just like we will. We are going to need to be at our best."
According to Johnson, the Aviators feature skill across the board, but especially on offense. Wideout J.J. Kukura is averaging 16 yards per catch over the last two years and is coming off an eight-reception 138-yard game against Minerva.
Quarterback Kordelle Phillips has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes this season for 533 yards and five touchdowns. He dissected the Quakers for 210 yards in last year's 44-14 Alliance rout.
Meanwhile, running back Parrish Martin is averaging over 6 yards per carry and is also capable of playing quarterback. He subbed for an injured Phillips in Alliance's opener against Canfield and led the Aviators to a comeback win.
"They have great speed all over the place," Johnson said. "Next to Liberty they might be one of the fastest teams we play this year. We are going with a very similar gameplan this week. The main focus will be keeping their athletes in front of us."
For the Quakers to win, Johnson also feels it imperative that they shore up their run defense. Last week Louisville ran for 270 total yards, which was a key factor in the Quakers falling way behind.
"That is certainly a concern for us," Johnson said. "For the past two weeks we have not been able to play a full 48 minutes of defense. We need to correct that."
The Quakers got Johnson the first two wins of his Salem career earlier this season, but the second-year coach is still searching for his first NBC win.
"We haven't played well the last couple of weeks, but we aren't backing down," Johnson said. "It's been a great group of guys to work with so far this year. Everyone has had a great attitude this week and we're ready to go."