SALEM — Without a doubt, Salem matched Exeter’s intensity and physical play throughout a rugged first half.
If not for a fine 35-yard punt return by Colby Swane that set up a short-field touchdown, the Blue Devils could have held the lead early and been within a point of the defending Division 1 champions at halftime.
All of that was rendered moot in the final 24 minutes as the Blue Hawks’ relentless offensive attack ground out score after score while the defense totally shut down Salem.
But the 35-6 final really doesn’t reflect how effective and committed the home squad was, especially considering the daunting task it dealt with.
“Absolutely, it was a team effort,” said Salem head coach Adam Gagne. “The defense brought it, the offense brought it and we played them hard.”
The drive of the year: It’s not too early to proclaim Salem’s lone march to the end zone last night as the best the area will ever see in 2012. Over 22 plays and 9:14 of the first half, the Blue Devils converted six third and fourth-down plays. Included was a third-down Ryan Nichols pass that was batted away from Rasheed Adigun but caught by Jacob Poore for 16 yards and a first down, and a twisting Adigun catch of a pass flying behind him on fourth-and-18 for 24 yards to the Exeter 5. Aptly, Adigun took a fourth-down carry 2 yards to the house.
Touchback times six: Field position is everything and Exeter kicker Logan Laurent gives the opposition nothing. His shortest kickoff landed two yards deep in the end zone and three punts averaged 39 yards. Salem’s best starting field position — its own 28 — came on its last drive of the night.
Exeter 35, Salem 6
Exeter (5-1, 4-0 Div. 1): 7 7 7 14 — 35
Salem (0-6, 0-4 Div. 1): 0 6 0 0 — 6
E — Tyler Grant 15 run (Logan Laurent kick), 5:09
S — Rasheed Adigun 2 run (kick failed), 7:51
E — Colby Swane 26 pass from Ethan Joyce (Laurent kick), 2:35
E — Galen Antolino 13 run (Laurent kick), 8:37
E — Antolino 1 run (Laurent kick), 11:19
E — Swane 12 run (Laurent kick), 8:22
RUSHING: Exeter (42-166) — Galen Antolino 12-62, Tyler Grant 13-60, Colby Swane 3-21; Salem (45-138) — Steven Bemister 6-50, Rasheed Adigun 7-29, Jason Martinez 17-26, Ryan Nichols 11-19, Ethan Glynn 4-14
PASSING: Exeter — Ethan Joyce 4-8-0, 62; Salem — Nichols 5-9-1, 77
RECEIVING: Exeter — Grant 2-24, Swane 1-26, Jameson Whiteley 1-12; Salem — Jacob Poore 3-41, Adigun 2-36