SALEM - Minerva remained undefeated while Salem fell to 4-4 as the Lions spoiled the Quakers' homecoming festivities with a 40-14 win at Reilly Stadium on Friday.
Just as like previous games, the Quakers had their chances driving deep into Minerva territory only to come away with no points when points mattered most.
"It's only 14-7 right before the half and three minutes later, it's a 28-7 game," Kopachy said. "The bottom line is we have to score points. We can't get a penalty that backs us up. We can't not score when we're in the red zone. Not in this league. You can't afford to. We have to finish drives."
Minerva drew first blood when Zach Wade ran 16 yards to pay dirt five minutes into the game. The run capped off a seven-play, 86-yard drive.
Minerva's PAT failed and the Quakers were able to take the lead with at 8:36 of the second. Sophomore QB Jake Carner connected with senior Zack Penick on 10-yard scoring strike, and Karsen Kuhns split the upright. The Quakers began the drive from their own 40 and used nine plays to reach the end zone.
The Lions re-took the lead five minutes later when Jake Riley ran in from a yard out. Kyle Crum caught a two-point conversion pass from Eli Maurer, and Minerva was back on top, 14-7.
After re-taking the lead, the Lions re-took control. Maurer and Crum teamed up on back-to-back scoring receptions - the first was a 5-yarder with two minutes left in the half and the second covered 15 yards with 41 seconds remaining. With the scores, Minerva took a 28-7 lead to the lockerroom.
"I have to take my hat off to Minerva," Kopachy said. "There's a reason they're undefeated. They come hard and they make plays. They made the plays tonight and that's the reason they're 8-0."
Salem opened the second half by driving inside the Lions 20, only to come away empty-handed. Minerva scored on the ensuing possession - Maurer found Wade from 4 yards out - driving 90 yards on just eight plays.
Salem's final score would come at 4:32 of the fourth when Travis Nolan broke free for a 80-yard TD run. The Lions finished things off with a 4-yard scoring run by freshman Dalton Hartshorn with 2:53 to be played.
Salem outran the Lions, finishing with 255 yards to Minerva's 216. Once again, senior Austin Noel led the way for the Quakers. Noel had his eighth-straight 100-yard game. He totaled a game-high 125 yards on 22 carries. Noel now has 954 to all but guarantee himself a 1,000-yard season with two games left.
"I feel for Austin Noel," Kopachy said. "He plays with his heart and soul. He's a leader and a competitor and gives 100 percent. Not that our players don't, but he's doing everything he can and it's just not translating into wins for us. That's frustrating."
In the air, Minerva was the clear winner. The Lions were 18-of-27 for 250 yards. Crum was the leading receiver reeling in five catches for 98 and two scores, while Riley led the Lions' ground game with 106 yards.
Carner finished 9-of-17 for 81 yards. Zach Penick had five receptions and is just eight away from breaking Ben Eisel's career-reception record of 130.
Things don't get easier for the Quakers. Next week, Salem travels to Louisville to continue its brutal NBC record.
"I'm not questioning our effort tonight, but this league is meat grinder," Kopachy said. "We played our hearts out, but we need to do the little things if we want to compete in the NBC. We can't keep making silly mistakes. We can't have drive killers. We can't have missed tackles. We need to do the little things, and we need to get better every week and every game if we're going to have a chance in this league.
"And we need to get better from top to bottom. From the first player on this varsity team all the way down to the seventh-game team, we need to to do the little things to get better as a program. That means lifting weights and getting stronger and stepping up on and off the field."