<3> Things didn’t get any easier for Coach Josh Ludwig and his crew on this the third week of the 2014 campaign, with two of his best receivers along with star defensive tackle Charles Iacobucci out of the game for various reasons. The Blue and White succumbed to a much improved Quaker team 39-7 on this Friday night at historic Reilly Stadium in Salem.
Things may not get easier for the Potters in coming years either, as sophomore running back Cooper Bezeredi put on a clinic scoring three times in the first half, leading Coach Ron Johnson and his team to a 27-0 before the break.
Bezeredi’s initial score came just three plays into the game, following a 21-yard gain by Kade Byland and a 39-yard pass completion from Matt Weingart to Trace Jenkins that took the ball down to the ten with Bezeredi finishing the drive. Braydon Gibson’s conversion kick made it 7-0.
Little time was wasted when, on the Quaker’s next possession, Bezeredi carried the ball on the first play and promptly raced 76 yards for the score with 7:11 remaining in the first period. Gibson’s kick made it 14-0.
Following and out-of-bounds kick off by Salem’s Jerod Cramer, the Potters set up on their own 35, but could advance no further than their own 49 from where Austin Mayfield punted to the Quakers ’23. Three plays later, Weingart found a wide open Jake Humeniuk in the middle of the field for a 63-yard TD completion, and following Gibson’s boot it was 21-0 with 4:32 showing on a first-quarter clock.
A nice return of the ensuing kickoff by DaShawn Golding brought the ball back to the Potters’ 26, where the Blue and White put together one of their few drives of the evening, an eight-play 29-yard push that was stymied when Andre Irwin picked off Austin Mayfield, and the Quakers set up shop on their own 38 as the game moved into the 3rd quarter.
By now, Coach Josh Ludwig and his crew started to tighten up their defense, extending Salem’s next advance into a ten-play effort before taking over on their own 32. Six plays later, however, they were forced to punt leading to a ten-play, 79-yard back breaker by the Quakers which saw Bezeredi score from the 13 with 1:52 remaining before the intermission. The extra point was blocked and it was 27-0, which us how the first half ended.
The Potters came out strong in the third quarter with a 14-play, 80-yard running attack that saw Kade Reynolds, who picked up 73 yards rushing on the night, score from the one with 5:13 on the clock. Ryan Lilly’s conversion kick made it 27 – 7, but it took Coach Ron Johnson’s team only four plays covering 66 yards in 61 seconds to respond, mainly on pass completions by Weingart to Trace Jenkins of 39 yards and Blake Hochadel for 13 yards and the TD that would make it 33-7. The extra point failed.
The final quarter saw the new Ohio high school “mercy rule” enforced after Salem extended their lead by more than 30 points to 39-7 on a 17-yard run by Byland with a little over nine minutes left to play in the game. Once again, the extra point failed, and the game ground to a disappointing conclusion, leaving the Potters with an 0-3 record.
“We need to do a better job of tackling,” said Coach Josh Ludwig following the game. Speaking to reporters at mid-field, the first-year leader of the team went on to say, “We didn’t pursue well and we didn’t maintain gap integrity. You can’t play good defense if you don’t tackle, pursue and control the gaps”, he concluded.
Stadium upgrades at Salem have really dressed up the old place. A new entrance and fencing along with a welcoming garden area make for a pleasing appearance. There has been talk for a number of years of replacing the grass with artificial turf, but the natural grass surface was in better condition this year than in recent times.
It was Hall of Fame night for Salem with several Quaker athletes from the past introduced at halftime.
Salem gained an impressive 548 yards of offense compared to EL’s 202. Bezeredi led all rushers with 172 stripes in 15 attempts.
Trace Jenkins, who caught two passes good for 77 yards, was Salem’s quarterback in 2013 but was replaced by sophomore Matt Weingart this season.