SALEM - The seniors of the Salem football team were ready for Senior Night.
Despite a scary second quarter, senior wide receiver Marcus Crittenden and running back Haedan Panezott made the most of their final Reilly Stadium game as the Quakers knocked off West Branch 48-33 ending a seven-game losing streak.
"It was a heck of a way to go out," Panezott said of his final game in a Salem uniform. "Being able to win this game with my friends here, it's great."
The Quakers (3-7, 1-6 in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference) opened early with two touchdowns from Crittenden, one an 88-yard rushing touchdown, the other a 18-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Matthew Weingart.
The second quarter, however, proved messy for the Quakers. Big mistakes including failure to score on a 1st and goal after a 91-yard kick return from Crittenden, a botched squib kick return, and fumbles on offense. The defense collapsed, and West Branch scored 27 points by halftime.
Fed up with recent losses and multiple score giveaways throughout the season, Salem coach Ron Johnson got tired of the collapse and knew something had to be done.
"We just knew we had to get back in the locker room," Johnson said. "We had to get things straightened out, and challenged them, and then just decided enough was enough."
Crittenden, who rushed for 179 yards in eight carries and had four catches for 65 yards, noted Johnson serving as motivator for the team.
"Johnson's halftime speech ticked off a few guys on defense," Crittenden said. "It just screwed everyone's heads on straight, and we just had to push the pedal to the ground and keep going."
After giving up 13 points in the first quarter, the Warriors (1-9, 1-6) started to dominate when junior quarterback Corey Snyder connected with junior wide receiver Kip DeShields for a 72-yard pass to score, and then evened the score with a 31-yard run from Snyder.
The Warriors then recovered after the Quakers botched a squib kick return, and scored twice more in the second quarter with a 4-yard pass from Snyder to junior wide receiver Bryce Butcher, and then Snyder running again for a 3-yard touchdown.
West Branch coach D.J. Dota found that the shot in the arm was just temporary.
"We were in a good situation in the second quarter," Dota said. "It's a lesson learned that we have to play all four quarters."
The Quakers made their comeback in the 3rd quarter with Weingart running for one yard for a touchdown and another impressive 54-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Weingart broke the tie with a 1-yard touchdown run.
The Warriors answered back with a 26-yard pass from Snyder to junior running back Logan Nagy, but the Quakers still led by one after kicker Zach Minich's extra point attempt was blocked.
Then, Quakers senior running back Haedan Panezott added to the scoreboard with a 66-yard touchdown run. A taunting foul, however, put the PAT back 15 yards. Regardless, a 35-yard kick from senior Caleb Quinn, returning from a broken collar bone in their week six game against Minerva, was good.
"He makes a huge different in field position and points," Johnson said. "That put us up by eight, where it really changes their mindframe into the game into that there's no way we can lose."
The Quakers defense also came back with big pressure. An interception by sophomore linebacker Josh Campbell followed by a 15-yard touchdown run by Panezott sealed the deal.
Contrary to the second quarter slump, Johnson felt that the team finally played a full 48-minute game.
"We had to play all 48," Johnson said. "Some parts of it better, but we played all 48 of it."
Panezott, who had a stellar showing rushing for 248 yards in 29 carries with two touchdowns, says goodbye to his closeknit group.
"As a team, we grew closer," Panezott said. "We set some records over the games."
Senior wide receiver Dan Rumsey, who rushed for 9 yards against West Branch and scored two touchdowns against Canton South last Friday, looks back on his one season as a Quaker when he could have been a Warrior instead, citing travel and the soccer program for his transfer.
"I originally came from West Branch to Salem," Rumsey said. "I had played soccer for three years, and Salem had a better program, and figured what better way to go out senior year than play on the football team."
With the departures of 14 Quaker seniors, Johnson looks forward to the future.
"We're going to use this experience and build on this because our guys know the expectations," Johnson said. "Know they know what it's like and the expectations and what it takes to make that commitment."
As for the underclassmen quarterbacks, both made a strong showing. Weingart went 11-for-24 passing with 172 yards, while Snyder went 16-for-39 for 216.
For the Warriors, Nagy led in rushing, going for 111 yards on 19 carries, while DeShields had six catches for 120 yards.
The victory for the Quakers also marked the first Northeastern Buckeye Conference in two years. Their last victory, coincidentally, was against West Branch on Oct. 28, 2011.
Salem's 48 points was the second-most in the 42 meetings between the two teams. Salem won the 2005 game by a 49-27 count.
The last time Salem and West Branch both had losing records in the same season was 1981, when Salem finished 3-6 and West Branch was 4-5-1.
WEST BRANCH: 7-20-0-6-33
S - Marcus Crittenden 88 run (kick failed)
S - Marcus Crittenden 18 pass from Matthew Weingart (Caleb Quinn kick)
WB - Kip DeShields 72 pass from Corey Snyder (Zach Minich kick)
WB - Corey Snyder 31 run (kick failed)
WB - Bryce Butcher 4 pass from Corey Snyder (Zach Minich kick)
WB - Corey Snyder 3 run (Zach Minich kick)
S - Matthew Weingart 1 run (Caleb Quinn kick)
S - Marcus Crittenden 54 run (Caleb Quinn kick)
S - Matthew Weingart 1 run (Caleb Quinn kick)
WB - Logan Nagy 26 pass from Corey Snyder (kick failed)
S - Haedan Panezott 66 run (Caleb Quinn kick)
S - Haedan Panezott 15 run (Caleb Quinn kick)
First downs 1818
Total Yards 436596
RUSHING-West Branch, Logan Nagy 19-111, Corey Snyder 16-73, Mason Hughes 8-45; Salem, Haedan Panezott 29-245, Marcus Crittenden 8-179, Dan Rumsey 1-9.
PASSING-West Branch, Corey Snyder 16-39-216-3; Salem, Matthew Weingart 11-24-172-1.
RECEIVING-West Branch, Logan Nagy 3-35, Kip DeShields 6-120, Bryce Butcher 3-21, Trae Hillyer 1-17, Jeremy Gorby 1-5, Austin R. Smith 2-18; Salem, Mike Popa 5-92, Marcus Crittenden 4-65, Haedan Panezott 2-15.
INTERCEPTIONS- West Branch, Bryce Butcher ; Salem, Kade Byland, Josh Campbell, Marcus Crittenden.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-West Branch, Jake Smith, Logan Nagy, Colton Ruggles, Logan Sharp; Salem, Jesse Slocum.