Quakers go the distance vs. Warriors
CARROLLTON — Call it The Drive — Salem style.
Trailing Carrollton 22-16 and backed up at its own 25-yard line with just 3:08 left in the game, the Division IV 14th-ranked Salem High School football team didn’t flinch.
Unleashing its deadly aerial game, the Quakers marched 75 yards to score with just 1:02 remaining and added the winning conversion run to remain unbeaten with a pulsating 24-22 Eastern Buckeye Conference comeback win over the Warriors at a rocking Community Field Friday night.
“Eighty yards in two minutes,” Salem coach Ron Johnson said. “We had 3:22 to go and three timeouts and our guys were calm. We can do that, we go two-minute (offense) all the time and we made plays when we had to make plays.”
The winning march was highlighted by a clutch 54-yard catch and run by Salem receiver Anthony DiMuzio who caught the ball from quarterback Niko Walter near the Salem 34 as a Carrollton defender had slipped and the Salem receiver raced 54 yards to the Carrollton 12 with 1:18 left.
On play later, Walter rolled left and arched a 12-yard scoring toss to DiMuzio in the left corner of the end zone, tying things at 22-22.
“I saw him (the Carrollton defender slip down) but it was all execution and a heck of a play call by coach (Johnson) and we just ran it,” said DiMuzio. “We’re tough in the fourth and our motto is bend but don’t break.”
Salem running back Cade Campolito then broke the tie when he took a two-point conversion handoff from Walter, and using a strong second effort, bolted over the left side to give the Quakers what turned out to be the winning points, leading 24-22 with 1:02 remaining.
Walter then sealed the win for the second week in a row on defense as he ended an opponent’s final drive with an interception, this time coming at the Carrollton 42 with 25 seconds left.
The win upped unbeaten Salem’s record to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Eastern Buckeye Conference. Salem has started three of the past five seasons 4-0 under coach Johnson.
With the difficult setback, Carrollton, which played its best game of the season, fell to 0-4 overall and 0-1 in the EBC.
“We got the two-point (conversion to lead 22-16) and just needed to hold on, but we have to close it,” Carrollton coach Jim Tsilimos said. “And we just didn’t do that tonight, but at least we took positive steps this week.”
Salem’s Johnson praised Carrollton’s effort but also lauded his Quakers for having the poise at the end to win it.
“We didn’t play that well and Jim (Tsilimos’) team played great,” said Johnson. “They (the Warriors) are coming, they’re going to be OK, but a win is a win, nobody gives a flying flip what the score is as long as you find a way to win, and this might do as much for us as a football team as a 30-point win.”
Salem’s winning march came after Carrollton, which trailed the Quakers 16-7 at halftime, used its effective running game to score one touchdown in each of the third and fourth quarters to take a 22-16 lead. The first Carrollton score occurred on a 14-yard scoring pass from sophomore quarterback Austin Colletti to Brady Benner with 8:55 left in the third quarter and pulled the Warriors within 16-14 after Jarod Becknell’s PAT kick. Carrollton then took 22-16 lead with just 3:22 left in the fourth quarter when running back Hunter Henry crossed the stripe from 2 yards out and Becknell added the PAT boot, setting the stage for Salem’s dramatic comeback win.
“We seemed to play much better in the second half in our first four games then we do in the first half,” said Tsilimos. “We kept it close and when we got opportunities we scored.”
For Salem, Walter completed eight-of-16 passes for 188 and two touchdowns and DiMuzio led all receivers with three receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown.
“DiMuzio made plays and Niko got him the ball and Cade Campolito (11 carries for 43 yards) ran his tail off and he’s really physical,” said Johnson. “Up front we blocked OK and they threw some stuff at us we hadn’t seen.
“Defensively we created enough turnovers,” added Johnson of his team’s two interceptions in the game by Walter and DiMuzio. In addition, Campolito, Zach Murray and Tyson Swiger had sacks.
Carrollton, which had 265 yards total offense, including 177 on the ground, was led by running back Joey Beard who had 18 carries for 103 yards but sustained an injury on the last play of the first half and did not return to the game. Running back Hunter Henry had 10 carries for 41 yards, all in the second half for Carrollton.
After a scoreless first quarter, Carrollton struck first when the Warriors, using a time-consuming, ball-control offense, marched 55 yards to score when Colletti briefly bobbled the snap but recovered to sneak across the goal line from 2 yards out on a fourth-and-goal play. Kicker Jarod Becknell booted the PAT and the hosts took a 7-0 lead at the 7:58 mark of the second quarter.
Salem, which had just one first down in the opening quarter, got things rolling in the second quarter following the Carrollton score. On the ensuing drive, the Quakers found the end zone in just three plays when Walter hit receiver Jax Booth on a short cross pattern and Booth took it to the house down the right side on a 68-yard scoring play. Running back Cade Campolito powered his way up the middle on the successful conversion run and the Quakers led 8-7 at the 7:23 mark of the second quarter.
The Quakers struck again moments later when Walter took the snap rolled right and skillfully weaved his way 9 yards around right end for the touchdown. Salem again added the two-point conversion when Walter arched a pass deep in the left corner of the end zone that was caught by Zach Murray and with 2:51 left before half the Quakers’ lead increased to 16-7.
• Tsilimos is in his first season at Carrollton after being Lisbon’s head coach for 25 years.
He said he plans to be in attendance to see two of his former Lisbon standouts, brothers Josh and Jake Liberati, play for Baldwin Wallace University today at Mount Union.
• Salem was ranked second in its Division IV Region 13 playoff region behind Lake County Perry heading into Friday night’s game at Carrollton.
• Salem returns home next Friday night when it hosts Canton South in an EBC game at Sebo Stadium.
SALEM: 0- 16-0-8–24
CARROLLTON: 0 – 7-7-8– 22
C–Austin Colletti 2 run, 7:58 2nd (Jarod Becknell kick)
S–Jax Booth 68 pass from Niko Walter, 7:23 2nd (Cade Campolito run)
S– Niko Walter 9 run, 2:51 2nd (Zach Murray pass from Niko Walter)
CARROLLTON — Brady Benner 14 pass from Austin Colletti, 8:55 3rd
(Jarod Becknell kick)
C– Hunter Henry 2 run, 3:22 4th (Austin Colletti run)
S– Anthony DiMuzio 12 pass from Niko Walter, 1:02 4th (Cade Campolito run)
First downs 11 14
Total Yards 308 265
Rushes-yards 31-120 43-188
Passing 188 77
Comp-Att-Int 8-16-1 8-14-1
Punts 5-.36 5-.35.7
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 3-1
Penalties-Yards 7-50 4-45
RUSHING–Salem, Cade Campolito 11-43, Niko Walter, 16-70; Carrollton, Joey Beard 18-103, Austin Colletti 8-18, Hunter Henry 10-41, Domanick Speelman, 5-14.
PASSING–Salem, Niko Walter, 8-16-188-2-1; Carrollton, Austin Colletti, 8-14-77-1-1.
RECEIVING–Salem, Jax Booth, 2-74, Anthony Dimuzio 3-96, Jacob Monigold 1-9, Cade Campolito 2-9; Carrollton, Joey Beard 1-26, Brady Benner 2-20, Brandon Brown 3-23, Justin Naylor 1-7, Hunter Henry 1-1.
INTERCEPTIONS–Salem, Niko Walter; Carrollton, Hunter Henry.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES–Salem, Anthony DiMuzio, Niko Walter.