SALEM - Both United and Salem promised a tough rivalry game for their Reilly Stadium showdown on Friday. Both teams delivered.
Keeping the game close for the entire 48 minutes, the Quakers would eventually earn the hard-fought victory, 24-21.
Salem coach Ron Johnson felt three-quarters sense of accomplishment.
"I'm not sure we played the first 12, but we played the last 36," Johnson said.
United (0-2) would be first on the scoreboard with a 23-yard pass from quarterback Garrett Beech to junior wide receiver Braden Davison. Senior running back Mike Martin then ran for 33 yards for a touchdown to put the Eagles up, 14-0.
The miscues from Salem (2-0) came early with a fumble from senior wide receiver Dan Rumsey, which would be picked up by senior running back Blaine Reiter for United.
"We were a little flat early," Johnson said. "We got caught up in the moment and didn't focus, and we let it get away from us."
The Quakers picked up steam in the second quarter, answering back with touchdown runs from senior running back Haedan Panezott and junior quarterback Trace Jenkins, and evened the score at the half.
United coach Mike Ward noted the front line mistakes throughout as a sore spot.
"Obviously we're not executing well on offense," Ward said. "We had some missed assignments up front from what I could see, and it cost us. I think we have to be able to execute a little better."
Jenkins would find numerous openings throughout the game, whether they were for 15 or 18 yards, or small gains that meant conversions.
Defense was a major role in the second half, keeping both sides deadlocked until the middle of the fourth quarter when a 29-yard run from Beech - who rushed for 83 yards and passed for 95 yards - gave the momentum back to the Eagles.
Salem would answer back with a 27-yard rushing touchdown from senior wide receiver Marcus Crittenden, who had five carries for 52 yards.
"Just the maturity and resolve of our team came through," Johnson said. "We got refocused. We dominated the second quarter, and from then on, we played really, really well."
Both quarterbacks also showed resiliency on kicking. Beech had five punts for 109 yards, and kicked all three extra points for United's touchdowns. Jenkins' three punts amounted to 88 yards.
It would be senior kicker Caleb Quinn, however, that would give Salem the advantage and the win, hitting a 32-yard field goal with four minutes remaining. Despite strong attempts, United failed to answer to the field goal.
Martin showed disappointment with the loss.
"We just didn't execute our plays," Martin said. "We missed tackles. We need to work on defense."
As United continued to keep pace with Salem, Martin noted the team refused to give up, and continued to make overall improvement from its week one loss against Malvern.
"It was way better than the first game," Martin said. "The effort was there, it's just some missed assignments."
With this year's rivalry behind them, both teams look forward to next week's games, including United's long travel to Newcomerstown.
"You have to have a short memory whether you win or lose," Ward said. "We'll go in, evaluate ourselves in the morning."
After two straight home games, Johnson looks to a new adventure and to keep up the winning streak for their trip south to East Liverpool next Friday.
"It is our first trip and how well we handle that," Johnson said. "It's a new experience for a lot of our guys. We got to stay locked in and make sure we handle the travel well. Our biggest challenge now is how we handle success."
One of those challenges for his first away game next week is kicker Caleb Quinn, the kicker behind the game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter.
"It's about learning the basics," Quinn said. "I've only kicked here at home. I'm used to kicking at other team's fields."
Kickoff for the Salem-East Liverpool game will be 7:30 p.m. next Friday.
-United coach Mike Ward paid tribute to his son, Gavin, who died during practice in 2009, by wearing his No. 63 jersey during the game. "I wanted him to be represented on the field," Ward said regarding the tribute. He would have been a senior this year.
-Salem's next home game takes place Oct. 4 against Minerva.
U -Braden Davisdon 23 pass from Garrett Beech (Garrett Beech kick)
U -Mike Martin 33 run (Garrett Beech kick)
S-Hadean Panezott 44 run (Caleb Quinn kick)
S-Trace Jenkins 4 run (Caleb Quinn kick)
U-Garrett Beech 29 run (Garrett Beech kick)
S-Marcus Crittenden 27 run (Caleb Quinn kick)
S-Caleb Quinn 32 field goal
First downs 1615
Total Yards 296312
RUSHING-U, Mike Martin 21-141, Garrett Beech 19-56; S, Haedan Panezott 18-116, Marcus Crittenden 7-60, Trace Jenkins 26-58.
PASSING-U, Garrett Beech 10-18-95-1 ; S, Trace Jenkins 6-11-62-0
RECEIVING-U, Caleb Conser 4-27, Braden Davison 3-38, Mike Martin 2-22, Tyler Lewis 1-8, Cody Dickens 1-8; S, Max Wolfgang 2-26, Blake Hochadel 3-27, Haeden Panezott 1-13, Dan Rumsey 1-6
FUMBLE RECOVERIES-U, Blaine Reiter