How did the Salem vs. Alvirne game go on Friday night? How is it that both teams were 3-1 coming in, Alvirne was playing at home yet they lost 36-14? Here it is in a nutshell - turnovers. Alvirne turned the football over four times in the first 6 minutes of the 2nd quarter. Salem capitalized, turning all four of those turnovers into touchdowns. In just 6 minutes it went from a 0-0 game to 29-0 Blue Devils.
"Those turnovers were huge" said Salem head coach Rob Pike. "We were opportunistic. The kids made plays when we needed to, I'm proud of them."
Alvirne had 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions in the span of 6 minutes. 3 of those turnovers came in the span of less than a minute, during which time Salem scored 22 points. It was a domino effect.
After 1 quarter it was 0-0 and it looked like a fairly even match up early on. The closest either squad came to scoring in the 1st was Salem. QB John Cerretani scrambled for a 30 yard run which would have said up 1st and 10 for Salem inside the Alvirne 30 yard line. However the Blue Devils were called for an illegal block in the back, and the ball was brought back. Salem was forced to punt, and that's when the turnovers began for Alvirne. The Broncos fumbled the punt, Salem recovered inside the Alvirne 15 yard line. Two plays later Salem junior RB Charles Sibanda burst through the middle of the Alvirne defense for a 12 yard TD run. 7-0 Salem, 11:06 left, 2nd quarter.
"It was lack of communication on that return" said Alvirne head coach Tim Walsh. "Both of them took their eye of the ball. If you're going to fumble a punt you don't want to do it on your own 10 yard line."
Alvirne punts again and Salem gets the ball back. Johnny Bartose ran for 11 yards right up the gut. Cerrtani to Kenny Calabrese for an 11 yard gain. Cerretani then hits Austin Homsey for a 10 yard pickup, followed by a 33 yard TD run by Nick Shumski. Another PAT was good by Chris Sheikhabdou and it's 14-0 Salem, 6:52 left, 2nd quarter.
This Salem team has a lot of weapons on offense. Cerretani is a threat to pass or run, he has the ability to scramble out of the pocket, avoid the pass rush, and either run it or throw the ball accurately on the run. Sibanda and Bartose both have a good combination of speed and power running the ball, Shummski is a speed back on the edge and Calabrese and Homsey are both talented receivers with good size and speed who can make tough catches. And guys like Doug Maroun, Patrick Hughes and Sean Nartiff all play valuable roles as well.
Alvirne ball, and QB Andrew Brown completes a pass to Harold Leete. Leete gets hit by a Salem defender, and the ball comes loose. It's recovered by the Blue Devils. On the next play from scrimmage Bartose rumbles 41 yards for the touchdown. Cerretani finds Homsey in the end zone for the 2 point conversion and it's 22-0 Salem, 6:30 left in 2nd quarter.
Things keep snow balling from there. Alvirne gets the ball back, on their own 15 yard line. Brown drops back to throw, but is picked off by Maroun for a 24 yard INT returned for TD. 29-0 Salem, 6:15 left in the 2nd quarter. 3 touchdowns for Salem in just 37 seconds!
Salem ball to start the 2nd half. They go on a long, 15 play drive that lasted over 8 minutes. Cerretani made some key throws to keep the drive alive, and Sibanda ran the ball to the 1 yard line. Sibanda then finished the drive with a 1 yard TD run. That made it 36-0 Blue Devils, 3:57 left in the 2nd quarter.
Nartiff sacked the QB on the ensuing Broncos' possession. Both teams sent in their backups and there was running time for the rest of the game. Alvirne added two touchdowns late to account for the 36-14 final score.
"In the beginning it was back and forth" said Coach Walsh. "I thought we were bigger and stronger up front, but they actually controlled us up front."