Quakers break out of funk

SALEM -The Salem Quakers came prepared and left Reilly Stadium with a 27-25 victory over Youngstown Liberty on Friday.

The win, the first since the 2011 season, was a strong point for coach Ron Johnson and his team.

“When you have to establish that winning attitude, and you have that swagger, you have to maintain to keep the pedal down,” Johnson said. “The team that had the recent success that they had aren’t going to quit.”

It was the first win for Johnson as coach of the Quakers.

Salem (1-0) dominated the first half following a Liberty three-and-out, scoring on a 27-yard rushing touchdown from quarterback Trace Jenkins. Salem continued the scoring frenzy with a 9-yard pass from Jenkins to tight end Max Wolfgang, making the game 13-0.

Liberty (0-1) answered with 1:47 in the first quarter with a 6-yard run from Lynn Bowden.

Just 15 seconds later, Salem opened that lead back with a 30-yard pass from Jenkins to Marcus Crittenden, to establish a 20-7 lead.

A Liberty first quarter fumble by quarterback Asim Pleas coupled with a Salem recovery, gave Salem the ball into the second quarter. The Quakers scored on a 16-yard pass from Jenkins to Blake Hockadel to make it 27-7.

“We came out of the gates and played great,” Johnson said. “Our kids executed very well, very confidently.”

Liberty started to close the lead shortly after with a 50-yard run by Bowden.

Slowly but surely, Liberty was coming back. Liberty made the second half kickoff an onside kick to great success, a move coach Kevin Cylar credits to special teams.

“That was a great call by special teams coach (Jay) Gripe,” Cylar said. “They did a wonderful job seeing that it was open. They called it at the right time.”

Salem’s offense showed signs of struggle in the third quarter along with penalties and two interceptions from Jenkins, one resulting in a 60-yard interception return for touchdown by Pleas.

Liberty closed that gap to two points in the fourth quarter with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Pleas to Danny Markulin, but couldn’t achieve the two-point conversion. One final attempt at the end zone, however, with a minute remaining fell for the Leopards as Pleas’ attempt to Markulin fell incomplete.

“It’s a game of inches, and it fell to the Quakers side,” Cylar said. “They played a great, inspired game, and we’ll just get to the drawing board and fix some things.”

Senior Trace Jenkins, who went for 11-for-18 with two interceptions and 172 yards in passing, spoke highly of the team.

“We had two kids out, and George Hall and Brendon Farkas stepped up,” Jenkins said. “All the wide receivers did a great job.”

Along with Jenkins, running back Haeden Panezott had 17 attempts rushing for 42 yards and four catches for 26 yards.

In addition to Pleas’s interception, Pleas threw for 77 yards and had 17 rushing attempts for 83 yards.

“We have to continue to execute in the second half,” Johnson said. “Ultimately we did finish the game with the win. Our defense bowed up in the end. There’s just a lot to be happy about.”

The Quakers host United next Friday.