Salem savors season finale

Salem’s Cade Campolito splits West Branch’s Reece Berger and David McKeiver on Saturday at West Branch High School. (Salem News/Gary Leininger)

BELOIT — Salem’s football team snapped the home team hex and defeated arch-rival West Branch in the process, posting a 30-20 triumph over the Warriors Saturday night on the mud-laden turf at Clinton Heacock Stadium.

Salem’s win broke an eight-year streak in which the home team in the series had won every game, dating back to the 2010 season.

“I’m very pleased with the effort, our guys were unbelievable,” beamed Salem head coach Ron Johnson. “It hangs in our locker room that one of our three goals is to beat West Branch on the road and we accomplished that.”

The win was also Salem’s third straight as the Quakers finished with a winning 6-4 overall record and 2-4 in the Eastern Buckeye Conference. West Branch, which lost its last three games of the season, including two to a pair of playoff teams in West Holmes and Marlington, also finished with a winning season at 6-4. The Warriors were 3-3 in the EBC.

Salem junior running back Cade Campolito had a big game on the ground to lead all rushers with 174 yards on 24 carries. He ran behind the Salem offensive line which paved the way for the Quakers to average 5.4 yards per rush during the game.

“There was a hole open every time and I had to just explode through it,” said Campolito. “We had a great night and we fought hard.”

“He (Campolito) had a great game, a great game, no question,” said Johnson.

West Branch head coach D.J. Dota felt his team didn’t fare well containing Campolito or Salem quarterback Turner Johnson.

“We didn’t do a good enough job containing the ball,” he said. “Whether it was Campolito or Johnson.”

Jesse Rastetter, who played at two positions, including some in the shotgun, led all West Branch rushers with 77 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns.

West Branch has the last remaining grass football field in the EBC and Saturday’s heavy rain made for a run-dominated game for both teams.

That suited Johnson just fine.

“We just took football back about 70 years,” he laughed, “but it was fun, it was a great game, “and not one personal foul which I’m most proud of on both sides because this is a highly-contested game. For both teams not to do anything silly, that’s a first-class football game that was well played.”

Tied at 14-all with a steady rain falling which made any passing difficult, Salem, nontheless made the most of its aerial opportunities. The Quakers took the lead for good when wide receiver Niko Walter took a double reverse option pitch and lofted a 12-yard scoring strike to receiver Luke Weingart with 4:38 left in the third quarter.

The Quakers also added the two-point conversion through the air when quarterback Turner Johnson found Robbie Sarginger with a two-point conversion pass. It gave Salem an eight-point (22-14) cushion with 4:14 left in the third quarter.

West Branch, which also averaged over five yards per rush in the run-dominated game, closed to within two of the Quakers at 22-20 when running back Thomas Caserta crossed the stripe from five yards out.

However, West Branch’s two-point conversion run was thwarted when a host of Salem defenders stopped Jesse Rastetter on the conversion run with 1:39 left in the third.

After stopping Salem on downs, West Branch again had the ball deep in its own territory but coughed up the football and Salem linebacker Joey Watson pounced on the ball at the West Branch 16.

The Quakers capitalized minutes later when Johnson rolled left and lofted a seven-yard scoring pass to Weingart in the left corner of the end zone. Johnson also raced around right end to add the two-point conversion run and the Quakers took a 10-point (30-20) lead with 6:35 left in the game.

Johnson praised the Quakers’ push along the offensive line. “Our guys up front made it happen,” he said. “We blocked well on the edges and our timely passing was huge. I just couldn’t be happier for our guys.”

West Branch had one last scoring opportunity but Salem turned the Warriors away at the Salem 10 in the closing minutes.

“We had other opportunities that came along and it just didn’t go our way tonight,” said Dota.

The Quakers’ offense then ran out the clock to close out the win in the rivalry.

“It (the Salem-West Branch game) is always a big game and we wanted it more tonight and came out and did that and respected them, they had a great team,” said Campolito.

Salem took the opening kickoff and marched downfield on a sustained drive to take the early lead on a one-yard keeper by Turner Johnson at the 10:30 mark of the first period. Salem made it 8-0 when Campolito raced into the end zone on the two-point conversion.

“At the beginning of the game we came out and did a couple things (defensively) that were uncharacteristic of our football team, not playing sound football like we’ve done for the last couple weeks and it puts you in a jam of what you want to call and what you want to do and we just never regained our momentum,” said Dota.

West Branch answered on its first offensive drive, marching 50 yards to score on a 26-yard quarterback keeper by Jesse Rastetter out of the Wildcat. Jared Butler kicked the PAT and cut into Salem’s lead ar 8-7.

Salem was marching again deep into West Branch territory but a shotgun snap sailed over the head of Johnson and was recovered by West Branch’s Rastetter at the 50.

West Branch converted the miscue, driving the necessary yardage to score on a five-yard keeper by Rastetter out of the Wildcat. Jared Butler added the PAT and West Branch led 14-8 at the 9:03 mark of the second quarter.

But Salem answered the West Branch score, marching 55 yards to score on a 36-yard jaunt by Johnson untouched around the right side. The conversion pass failed and the score was 14-14 and remained that way at half.

Salem finished its season with wins over Minerva, Akron Kenmore-Garfield and West Branch. Johnson said it will help the Quakers build for next season. But first, he wants his team and especially his seniors to enjoy their win over West Branch in their last high school football game.

“We have our regular season which is nine games and then we have the West Branch season and we have the postseason,” he said. “Things (concerning the playoffs) didn’t work out for us last night (with Ohio teams vying for playoff spots) so this was our state championship and we won a championship and we’re very proud of that,” he said.

SALEM: 8-6-8-8–30

WEST BRANCH: 7-7-6-0– 20

S–Turner Johnson 1 run (Cade Campolito run)

WB–Jesse Rastetter 26 run (Jared Butler kick)

WB–Jesse Rastetter 5 run (Jared Butler kick)

S–Turner Johnson 36 run (pass failed)

S– Luke Weingart 12 pass from Niko Walter (Robbie Sarginger pass from Turner Johnson)

WB–Thomas Caserta, 5 run, 1:39 3rd (Run failed)

S–Luke Weingart, 7 pass from Turner Johnson, 6:35 4th (Turner Johnson run)

Salem WB

First downs 18 17

Total Yards 272 257

Rushes-yards 44-240 43-233

Passing 54 24

Comp-Att-Int 4-6-0 1-5-0

Punts 3-.33 3-.36

Fumbles-Lost 2-1 3-1

Penalties-Yards 2-20 3-20

INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

RUSHING–Salem, Cade Campolito 24-174, Turner Johnson 14-44; West Branch, Jesse Rastetter 12-77, Brock Hillyer 13-64, Thomas Caserta, 12-60, Gage Bickley 4-32

PASSING–Salem, Turner Johnson 4-6-41-0; Brock Hillyer1-6-22-0.

RECEIVING–Salem, Luke Weingart 3-39, Josh Lehwald 1-9, Robbie Sarginger 1-7

FUMBLE RECOVERIES–Salem, Joey Watson; West Branch, Jesse Rastetter

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