SALEM - For 13 members of the Salem Quaker football team, tonight will be the final time they step out under the lights for a high school football game at Reilly Stadium.
It's senior night for the Class of 2013 and that means one last chance to put on a show in front of the home crowd. A win would give them the most wins for any single class in Salem football history.
"We've been trying diligently to make that happen," Johnson said. "They were a part of a couple good teams when they were younger. They've worked so hard to carry it on. We have good kids that have contributed for four years, and it's important that they get an opportunity to get a win in their last game at Reilly Stadium."
Despite a 12-point loss at Minerva last week, Salem managed to rack up nearly 400 yards of offense.
Trace Jenkins completed 10-of-17 passes for 222 yards and two scores. A large chunk of that total came on one play, an 80-yard catch and run by Haedan Panezott that displayed the junior receiver's speed and elusiveness.
Salem also showed a change-up to its style of play and successfully moved the ball on the ground. Against a Leopard defense that surrenders over 200 yards of offense on the ground alone, a continuation of an attack that saw the Quakers run the ball 43 times last Friday can be expected.
"Louisville isn't overwhelming size-wise like some of the teams we have played this year," Johnson said. "So it's a pretty good match up. We're going to take what they give us, and if we can rush the football on them than that's where we're going to start."
With all of the big numbers the Salem offense put up, perhaps the most important was just a single digit - zero - the number of sacks the Quakers' offensive line allowed.
"I took the offensive line out for a steak dinner," Johnson said. "They don't give up a sack and they get their reward. We have a kickoff return or punt return, they get one. It's a good reward. They took pride in it. But they know that it goes hand in hand - when you don't give up sacks and minus yardage plays you play a lot better and put yourself in a better position to win."
Aside from gaining a dinner, Johnson said the confidence boost for a young group is more important.
"They get more and more confident every week since they've seen things over and over again," he said. "They really are playing well and it gives the quarterback confidence and the receivers confidence."
Last week Minerva took advantage of turnovers on back-to-back kickoffs to put distance between themselves and Salem just before halftime. The special teams blunders were out of the ordinary for the most consistent aspect of the Quaker attack.
"We have locked in this week in cutting out the penalties and being a more disciplined football team," Johnson said. "It's been a big point of emphasis and we'll see how our kids will respond under fire."
The Leopards make the final appearance for a visiting team in Reilly Stadium this year with a 4-4 (2-3 NBC) record, and a glimmer of hope of making the Ohio High School Division II playoffs.
They will be doing so without starting quarterback Joey Duckworth. Last week against West Branch, a team the Quakers will take on in the season finale, backup Jeremy McQuilkin threw for 117 yards in a 21-17 loss to the Warriors. In his time filling in under center, McQuiklin has completed 29 of 53 passes for 254 yards and three scores.
Johnson expects to see multiple looks from the Leopards, including multiple players at quarterback and a defensive scheme that will attempt to switch things up during sustained drives.
"They run routes and have guys that can deliver the football," Johnson said.
Salem and Louisville kick off at 7 p.m. at Reilly Stadium.