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Salem, Branch state ranked

From Staff Reports

Salem and West Branch appear to be on a collision course.

Both Eastern Buckeye Conference teams are off to 4-0 starts and ranked in the initial Associated Press high school football poll released Monday.

West Branch is ranked fifth in Division IV, while Salem is 12th.

Both teams feature the area’s top-ranked offenses and defense.

West Branch is averaging an area-high 51.0 points a game this season — scoring at least 47 points every game — and Salem averages 45.8.

Junior quarterbacks Dru DeShields of West Branch and Jackson Johnson of Salem have similar numbers so far this season — both passing for 15 touchdowns with one interception.

DeShields has completed 71 of 98 passes (72 percent) for 914 yards and Johnson has completed 64 of 99 passes (65 percent) for 912 yards.

Their top receivers are Salem senior Blaize Exline and West Branch senior Nick Wilson.

Exline has scored 14 touchdowns through four games, totaling 32 receptions for 522 yards (16.3) and eight touchdowns.

Wilson has a team-high 22 receptions for 328 yards (14.9) and seven touchdowns.

Both teams also deliver on defense with Salem holding opponents to 12.0 points a game and West Branch 13.5.

They continue EBC play Friday with West Branch traveling to Canton South and Salem playing Alliance at Mount Union Stadium.

If they continue their winning ways, a week 10 matchup looms with West Branch at Salem on Oct. 23.

Also in Division IV, Youngstown Ursuline (3-1) is ranked ninth.

Ursuline senior DeMarcus McElroy ran for 359 yards and three touchdowns on 43 carries in a 48-47 win at Austintown Fitch on Friday.

South Range (4-0) is ranked second in Division V and Springfield Local (3-1) is 12th in Division VI.

South Range has won 16 of its last 18 games overall and has scored at least 40 points in all four games this season. The Raiders will play at Poland on Friday.

Springfield, coming off a 54-6 win at previously-unbeaten Lowellville, will host Mineral Ridge on Friday. The Tigers’ lone loss was a 41-21 decision to South Range in the season opener.

See page B6 for the complete state football poll.

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