Quakers send Leopards packing
LOUISVILLE — Two of the Northeastern Buckeye Conference’s fiercest football rivals clashed head on Friday night when Salem traveled to Louisville for their final meeting as league members, and the Quakers provided themselves with a memory to last a lifetime, posting an 43-35 win over the Leopards.
“Salem football stands for the right stuff and we’re just tickled to death and I couldn’t be happier for our kids and our community,” beamed Salem head coach Ron Johnson afterward. “This was a statement game and we made a statement loud and clear.”
It marked Salem’s first-ever win over Louisville in seven meetings as league members. The NBC is moving on without Louisville next season.
Salem won’t be playing Louisville any time in the foreseeable future as the Quakers have replaced the Leopards with consolidated school Akron Kenmore-Garfield at Reilly Stadium in Week 9 next year.
To say Friday night Salem’s triumph over Louisville was extra satisfying would be an understatement. Just ask coach Johnson.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s really one of the best wins in my coaching career,” Johnson said. “Just for the simple fact of what they stand for and what we believe in, and to be able to come here for the last opportunity to play them and beat them means so much.”
As the seconds ticked off the clock, Johnson was doused with a Gatorade shower on the field.
The Quakers had a number of stars on the night, including quarterback Mitch Davidson who threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns, receiver Chase Ackerman who led all receivers with five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown and multi-purpose standout Turner Johnson who rushed for 93 yards, caught five passes for 121 yards and had a key 35-yard punt return which set up a Salem score.
“It (is one of the more meaningful wins),” said Turner Johnson. “Louisville is a pretty good team and we fought hard. This is a pretty big one.”
Salem’s offense piled up 564 yards offense against Louisville, including 240 yards on the ground, led by running back Cade Campolito with 96 yards on 14 carries behind Salem’s offensive line.
“(Tackle) Mike Brant stood out on the offensive line because we just ran and ran,” said Ron Johnson. “We just took the clock down and imposed our will on them. “We imposed our will aggressively.”
Brant was all smiles afterward. “It’s crazy how tonight went, it’s cool,” smiled Brant who opened some large holes for Salem to have success running the ball on the perimeter. “It’s a big responsibility playing tackle for sure but it’s a lot of fun,” he added.
On defense, Salem’s Zach Bezon was everywhere, intercepting a Louisville pass which set up a touchdown and recovering a fumble. He also scored on a nine-yard reverse on offense.
“We got in a hole with the turnovers and never got out of the hole,” commented Louisville head coach John DeMarco. “We fought all night just trying to get our head above water and never made it.”
With the win, Salem is now 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the NBC and kept its playoff hopes alive, while Louisville is 4-5 overall and 4-2 in the conference.
Salem scored on four of its six first-half possessions. The Quakers opened the scoring on a five-yard scoring run by running back Cade Campolito to make it 7-0 with 7:08 left in the first quarter.
The Quakers also scored on an eight-yard scoring pass from Davidson to Turner Johnson. Louisville got two first-half scores on two runs of three yards by running back Max Hartline, the latter tying the game at 14-14 at the 7:17 mark of the second quarter.
But Salem went on to score 13 points in a span of 7:00, starting with a nine-yard TD run by Zach Bezon on a reverse. Moments later, Bezon was the star again — this time on defense — as he picked off a pass by Louisville quarterback Colton Jones and returned it to the Louisville 36. The Quakers capitalized with a 28-field field goal by Braydon Gibson to go up 24-14 with 2:31 left before the break.
Salem’s defense held and Salem’s Turner Johnson, who had a great all-around game, returned the punt 35 yards to the Louisville 14.
Moments later, Gibson hit another field goal, this time from 27 yards out with 26 seconds left before half and Salem took a 27-14 lead into the locker room.
Gibson’s kicking was huge for the Quakers in the first half as he had two field goals (three for the game) and had three kickoffs which sailed into the Louisville end zone as the Leopards had to start those drives at their own 20.
Salem maintained its lead throughout the second half and went up 34-21 when Chase Ackerman hauled in a 38-yard scoring toss from Davidson at
the 8:32 mark of the third period.
Louisville pulled within six when quarterback Colton Jones crossed the stripe from three yards out with 6:53 showing in the third. Following Hannah Baughman’s PAT, Louisville drew within 34-28 of the Quakers.
But Salem sealed the deal with a three-yard scoring run by Davidson and a 25-yard field goal by Gibson to take a commanding 43-28 advantage with 4:31 left in the fourth quarter.
“Our kids we so focused,” praised Johnson. “I couldn’t be happier for our kids, they bought in and stayed the course and it was outstanding.”
Louisville added the final score with 3:14 left on a 1-yard run by Nathan Guiley.
Salem will host arch-rival West Branch on Saturday night at Reilly Stadium.
“We have as big a game next week (in West Branch), no question,” closed Johnson.
• Salem was 10th in its Division IV region in this week’s OHSAA computer ratings.
• Since joining the NBC in 2011, Salem and next week’s foe West Branch
are 3-3 in their previous six meetings as league members. However, Salem won all three previous home games at Reilly Stadium and West Branch won its three home meetings with the Quakers in Beloit.
S– Cade Campolito 5 run (Braydon Gibson kick)
L– Max Hartline 3 run (Hannah Baughman kick)
S– Turner Johnson 8 pass from Mitch Davidson (Braydon Gibson kick)
L– Max Hartline 3 run (Hannah Baughman kick)
S– Zach Bezon 9 run (Braydon Gibson kick)
S–Braydon Gibson 28 FG
S–Braydon Gibson, 27 FG
S– Chase Ackerman 38 pass from Mitch Davidson (Gibson kick)
L– Colton Jones 3 run (Hannah Baughman kick)
S– Mitch Davidson 3 run (kick failed)
S– Braydon Gibson 25 FG
L–Nathan Guiley, 1 run (Hannah Baughman kick)
First downs 24 18
Total Yards 564 388
Rushes-yards 45-240 26-215
Passing 324 180
Comp-Att-Int 13-24-0 10-19-0
Punts 2-48 2-40
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 6-55 6-60
RUSHING–Salem, Cade Campolito 14-96, Mitch Davidson 12-41, Turner
Johnson 15-93, Zach Bezon 1-9 ; Louisville, Max Hartline 15-203, Colton Jones 5-0, Davis Burick 1-6
PASSING–Salem, Mitch Davidson 13-24-275-0, Johnson 1-1-44-0; Louisville, Colton Jones, 10-19-173-1.
RECEIVING–Salem, Chase Ackerman 5-110, Turner Johnson 5-121, Luke Weingart 2-29; Louisville, Bryce Zuppe 3-78, Logan Thomas 2-22, Davis Burick 3-40, Max Hartline 2-16, Pukys 1-14.
INTERCEPTIONS–Salem, Zach Bezon.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES–Salem; Zach Bezon.