Salem ready for another chapter of United rivalry

HANOVERTON – The Salem and United football teams opened their seasons in strong fashion last week, but one team will see its first blemish this Friday as the two hit the field for the 11th time in this week two rivalry.

“You’re only 11 miles away,” United coach Mike Ward said. “It’s a fun atmosphere. It’s all what high school is all about.”

“It’s not a long trip,” Salem coach Ron Johnson said. “Conditions are great, crowds are very excited, and we’re looking forward to being there.”

Both teams enter week two at 1-0, and the visiting Quakers look to capitalize on last week’s 28-7 victory over Mineral Ridge.

Sophomore Cooper Bezeredi led in rushing last week as he went for 81 yards in six carries, one for a touchdown, while senior Kade Byland ran for two touchdowns and caught a 21-yard pass from junior quarterback Matt Weingart for another. Weingart also continued his passing game from last season as he went 13-for-19 for 124 yards.

Heavily outnumbering the Rams last week in yardage, the Quakers look to continue success with their depth and experience.

“Our players have been working out really well,” Johnson said. “We’re very excited to get back out on the field.”

The Quakers will also look out for the experience of United, who have nine returning starters on both offense and defense.

“They’re very mature. They’ve got a lot of seniors coming back,” Johnson said. “They’re a very physical football team, and they play with a lot of confidence.”

Meanwhile, United will have many tests to work with this week against Salem. As they attempt to capitalize on last week’s 26-13 win over Malvern, the Eagles know they have work ahead of them.

Bryan Weyant and Colton Antram led in offense last week as they rushed for 82 and 81 yards respectively, and quarterback Cody Dickens also focused more on rushing as he picked up 17 yards, but went just 1-for-4 for 15 yards passing.

“We still have a lot of polishing to do,” Ward said. “We’re building on the success we had against Malvern.”

The Eagles will keep an eye on the solid offense of the Quakers, including the passing game of Weingart.

“With their pass offense, they can spread the entire field,” Ward said. “Their quarterback has a quick release on the ball, and that makes it hard for us to get to him.”

The Eagles also look to keep an eye on Bezeredi, Byland, and senior running back Blake Hochadel.

“They can all catch the ball well,” Ward said. “Containing their offense is going to be a big concern for us.”

Experience might be a plus for the Eagles, but endurance could be a big test. While they have nine starters on offense and defense, the Quakers have the depth and size to work just one way.

“They pretty much have a two-platoon team,” Ward said. “They have enough that can play just either offense or defense whereas we have a few that may have to play both ways.”

Both teams will be ready come Friday, and while United looks for the win, Salem has the upper edge as they lead the series 6-4, including last year’s 24-21 victory over the Eagles at Reilly Stadium.

“We just want to go out and put another chapter in this rivalry,” Johnson said.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at United High School.