SALEM - Reilly Stadium and high school football are about as synonymous as it gets, but for the the Salem High School football team, the first weeks of the season have been spent away from home confines.
The road hasn't been kind for the Quakers as they enter week three with an 0-2 record.
Salem spent its last two weeks in closely contested matches that didn't end in their favor.
"I think we're right there," head coach Ron Johnson said.
"It's just a matter of taking advantage of opportunities. We've had opportunities in our grasp to get over the hump. The guys came back with a great work ethic."
In addition to two preseason scrimmages, it has been over four weeks the team has been on the road. The excitement is palpable in the Quaker locker room as the countdown to being under the Reilly Stadium lights gets shorter.
"Well it's always important to play well at home." Johnson said. "It will be the first time in Reilly Stadium this year and our guys are excited about that."
Fortunately for Salem, the Red Dragons have had their own road woes to combat in recent years. Since September of 2010, Niles has posted a 2-4 for record as the visiting team.
However, the Quakers will have a Niles team lining up against them that has surrendered just 19 points all season.
The Red Dragons come to Reilly Stadium 2-0 - one of those wins coming against a Liberty team that Salem had its' struggles with in Week 1.
In last year's edition, Salem escaped Niles with a 7-3 win.
Johnson acknowledged that the Red Dragons are sound at executing their game plan. It also helps that Niles boasts an offensive line an average weight of 300 pounds.
"They're huge. They're the University of Niles McKinley," Johnson said.
"We've got to keep doing what we've been doing and stay in game until the fourth quarter. If we keep giving ourselves these opportunities to win like that, it's going to come sooner or later."
Age and experience are two factors that are not on the Quakers side this year. But the experience that younger players are getting from action on Friday nights will prove to be invaluable down the road.
"We're playing so many young guys, but when you have a game on the line sometimes you have some growing pains," Johnson said. "Our guys didn't go in the tank. They're asking for another opportunity to make it better and they're going to get one."
Week one of this season saw a familiar sight, as Salem's offense was ineffective at finishing drives. After a week's worth of practice, the inability to cap off drives with a touchdown seemed to dissipate.
Against United, points were easier to come by as the Quakers were able to put up 28 points and churn out 279 yards of offense; 195 of that on the ground.
This week, the offense will look to continue the progression.
"We're doing very well on offense,"?Johnson said. "We're throwing it all over the yard and making plays. Now we have to sustain drives. We have to not get ourselves into long yardage situations."
Niles will use their muscle to pound the football. For Salem, speed and quickness will be the remedy to counteract that strength.
"It's going to be a real challenge,"?Johnson said. "We want to play smart football and have no self-inflicted wounds, no silly penalties, no lack of production. We have to know our assignments."
All come as a part of playing Salem football which Johnson references is "in mind, body and spirit."
"We want to play with emotion,"?he said.
"Go out and have fun and play with enthusiasm. We're playing hard, we're playing smart and we have to continue that."