ALLIANCE - You could call it a game gone bad or the one that got away. Salem coach Mike Kopachy prefers to call it what it was - a game his Quakers could of won but didn't.
Salem trailed NBC opponent Alliance just 14-12 with four minutes to go in the third quarter before giving up 21 unanswered points in the last 13 minutes and ultimately dropping a 35-12 decision at Mount Union Stadium on Friday.
"I'm sick," Kopachy said. "I'm sick about this game and sick for ours kids. (Taurice Scott) is good player but we can't let one guy beat 11 and that's what we did. He's not the only good player they have, but when you have him in the backfield, you have to wrap him up, swarm him, make the tackle. We didn't do that and allowed him to come up with big plays."
Scott came up especially big late to break open the game. Scott picked off Jake Carner and returned it to the Quaker 5. That set up a 2-yard TD run from Marcus Williams and put the Aviators up, 21-12, with 13 seconds remaining in the third. Two minutes later, Scott connected with Jalen Mays on an 80-yard scoring strike. Scott later exploded on a 90-yard touchdown run with 7:39 left to be played.
Scott finished with 278 yards and three touchdowns on the ground - he scored both of Alliance's first-half touchdowns on runs of 71 and 5. The senior standout was 10-of-16 passing for 175 yards, a score and an interception.
"We had way too many defensive breakdowns late in the game, and just too many mental breakdowns," Kopachy said. "We made too many mental mistakes. I don't think they were physically better than us, but mentally they beat us."
The Quakers started out strong, coming up with a turnover on the Aviators first drive. Austin Noel picked off Scott but Salem couldn't capitalize on the turnover.
Scott would come up with his 71-yard run on the first play of the Aviators' second possession, but the Quakers would answer. Noel, who finished with 138 yards on 32 carries, would carry the ball eight times on Salem's nine-play scoring drive, capping it off with an 18-yard run at 3:57 of the first. The PAT attempt was wide and Salem trailed, 7-6.
Alliance would make it a 14-6 ballgame when Scott ran in from 5 yards out early in the second quarter. That run finished off a 75-yard, 16-play march.
The Quakers would threaten, driving inside the Alliance 10, but a holding penalty backed them up to the 23. Salem would have to settle for a field goal attempt and the 36-yard attempt fell short.
"It's the same old story," Kopachy said. "We can't finish drives. It's always a penalty, a dropped pass, or a poor decision. We have to get better at finishing drives and taking advantage of breaks."
The Quakers did capitalize on one early in the third. Salem held Alliance deep in it's own territory, when Noel dropped Nathan Rice for a 5-yard loss on 4th-and-2 at the Aviator 33. Carner kept the football and ran in for a short score, eight plays and three minutes later. The 1-yard run was the last time Salem pierced the end zone. After that, it was all Alliance.
"I've been a coach for 14 years and the one thing I have learned is that good teams create their own breaks," Kopachy said. "We had some breaks, but hats off to Alliance. They not only created breaks. They took advantage of them and that's something we didn't do. At least not as often as we should have."
The Aviators improved to 5-2 with the win, while the Quakers dropped to 4-3. Salem next plays undefeated Minerva, the NBC frontrunner, next week at home.
"Minerva is good football team and we're going to have our hands full," Kopachy said. "We're looking for a win next week. It's our homecoming and you always want to give your community a win on that night. But before we can even think about winning next week, we have to focus on and do the little things. Little things win games. If we do the little things, winning will follow."