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Niles spoils Salem's home opener

September 8, 2012
JON RUDDER - Staff Writer ( , Salem News

SALEM - For the 2012 Salem Quakers, Friday night was a home opener they might like to forget.

Stefan Yuhas and the Niles Red Dragons stifled the Salem offense and rode a potent offensive combination of their own in a 41-23 win Friday night at Reilly Stadium.

Severe weather conditions forced kickoff back to 7:40 p.m., but the delay had seemingly no effect on the Red Dragons' offense.

From the onset the Dragons' game plan was clear - a healthy diet of Yuhas.

"We finally got to show that Stefan Yuhas was a true quarterback and not just a runner," Niles head coach Brian Shaner said.

"Our defense is also just starting to scratch the surface of how good they can really be. We brag about our line, but right now our defense is definitely our top performer."

Niles took the opening kickoff and drove nearly the length of the field to put up the game's first points.

A 14-play, 82-yard drive culminated in a Chris Hillier touchdown run from 10-yards-out.

"That's a good football team, and I told their coach that after the game," Salem head coach Ron Johnson said. "I think they're going to be playing well into the post-season. I think he runs a first-class program and they got after us."

Haedan Panezott set Salem up with great field position on the ensuing kickoff, with a return near midfield. The Quakers however, couldn't take advantage of the good field position and were forced to punt.

That gave the ball right back to Niles offense, and the Red Dragons' offense picked up right were it left off with its' first drive, going 83 yards and finishing when Yuhas plunged over the goal line on a 10-yard keeper.

Yuhas finished with 25 carries for 119 yards. He also amassed 188 more by way of the pass.

After Niles picked off a Salem pass on fourth down, back came the Red Dragons with yet another scoring drive.

Moving the ball methodically with Yuhas and Marcus Hill, the senior quarterback capped the drive with his second touchdown from two-yards-out.

Salem's offense remained stagnant, virtually unable to move the ball through the first quarter their struggles into the second.

The Red Dragons took advantage of the second Salem turnover of the game by putting up more points. This time Yuhas would get it done with his arm, connecting on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Hill.

Hill led the team in receiving on the night with 103 yards on five catches.

Yuhas showed off his arm again on the Dragons next possession for Niles, this time hooking up with Chris Parry for 63 yards and another Red Dragons touchdown.

When the smoke settled it was 34-0 at the half.

"We're going to play 48 minutes, and all we're guaranteed is to play 48 minutes each week," Johnson said. "We had a meeting at half-time and understood what we needed to do in the second half. We're going to get one block better, one catch better, one run better."

Improve Salem did in the final 24 minutes despite giving up an early touchdown on a 52-yard interception that was returned for a score by Niles' Josh Mango.

With 8:06 left in the third, the Quakers broke through. Marcus Crittenden was able to slip behind the Niles secondary and quarterback Trace Jenkins found him for a 47-yard score for Salem's first points.

Crittenden found the end zone a second time in the fourth quarter, on a nine-yard run around the left side. Crittenden finished with nine rushes for 37 yards and three catches for 80-yards and a score.

Despite the large deficit, the Quakers didn't quit. And despite starters giving way to back-ups for Niles, the Quakers kept in their first string. Niles returned the favor as Salem seemed to find its footing.

"I was really glad to see our guys bow up when they put their starters back in," Johnson said. "They continued to get better through the half and finish the game the right way."

In addition to the three-second half touchdowns the defense recorded a safety when Niles' Corey Hayes was brought down behind his own goal line.

Salem added another touchdown when Jenkins, flushed from the pocket under duress scampered 23-yards to finalize the scoring at 41-23.

"We want to keep working at the things we can control," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter who we play. There are certain things are absolutely in your control and we need to maximize those."

The Quakers (0-3) begin conference play next week hosting Carrollton.



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