SALEM - Salem and Alliance came into Friday night's contest a combined 0-12 on the season. Unfortunately for the Quakers, Alliance left Reilly Stadium with a 44-14 win on Salem's homecoming night.
"We're happy to get a win," Alliance coach Mike Schott said. "It's been a tough year. The guys have been getting better each week. I'm proud of our kids."
The Salem offense - a continuous progression for head coach Ron Johnson and staff - continued to display new quirks and wrinkles in an effort to maximize its options, but it wasn't enough.
Salem had a chance to get on the board first when the Quakers caught the Aviator defense on a play they've had success on before. Jake Carner took a handoff from Trace Jenkins and once he reached the edge, lofted the ball to a streaking Marcus Crittenden who raced to the end zone.
Unfortunately, the big play was negated with a penalty that took points off of the scoreboard.
"They were in man coverage so we can go ahead and take a guy with us and pin it down," Johnson said. "When we block down, we have four guys getting in the way of the person that's supposed to be covering Marcus (Crittenden) on the wheel route. They got caught up in that, he was wide open and caught it."
But that penalty ended up proving to be a 12-point swing when the Aviator's Parrish Martin jumped a pass intended for Crittenden and took it back 50 yards for the score to give Alliance an early lead. Thane Sevey blocked the ensuing extra point to keep the score 6-0.
"It was a hard fought game in the first half," Schott said. "We had a pick for a touchdown and a fumble for a touchdown. Our defense is getting better every week and created those plays."
The Aviators running game, held mostly in check throughout the night, broke loose for a big play when Martin found a hold on the right side and found his way to the end zone down the right sideline.
"Parrish is a great player. He does a lot of great things for us offensively and defensively," Schott said. "He's a threat anytime he's on the field and he has made plays for us all year."
With the run game already striking for a score, the passing game got involved later in the first quarter. Kordelle Phillips found J.J. Kukura for another Alliance touchdown from 17-yards-out.
The Quakers turned the ball over three times Friday night two of those directly resulted in points for the Aviators.
Another turnover, this time a Quaker fumble, was picked up by Alliance's Marcus Williams who then rumbled 40 yards the other way to put the Aviators up 26-0.
After 24 minutes of play, the Quakers found themselves down 26 points. However they looked to climb back into it in the second half taking took their first drive for points.
Brendan Webb caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jenkins for the score.
Webb had his name called again on two long conversions later in the third quarter that kept another Quaker drive rolling.
Webb pulled down a pass from Jenkins on a fourth and long to move the chains, and again on a third and ten that kept the drive alive. But another turnover halted the Quaker rally.
"Brendan is a good player," Johnson said. "He made guys miss. Shook some people and got some extra yards. I thought that he played really well."
Alliance answered right back with a score of their own. Martin broke loose on his second 30-yard touchdown run of the evening to push the lead back to 32-7.
The Aviators puled away with two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Phillips added a three-yard run on a quarterback keeper and Kristian Jackson capped the scoring for Alliance with a two-yard plunge.
Salem's young core wouldn't go quietly, striking on a long run in the fourth when Haedan Panezott broke loose on a 65-yard scamper to cap the scoring.
"We're young, but we've got to stay positive," Johnson said. "We're all coming back next year."
Salem (0-7, 0-4 NBC) travels to Minerva Friday.