Quakers rally in the second half to defeat the Aviators

Sports

The Quakers defense came up with an interception late in the game to preserve the victory

SALEM, OHIO (WKBN) – The Salem Quakers roared back in the second half to knock off the Alliance Aviators 20-13 Friday night at Sebo Stadium.  The Quakers, who improve to 3-3 on the season will host the Struthers Wildcats next Saturday night in the first round of the OHSAA playoffs.

With the Aviators leading 13-7 at halftime, the Quakers turned the momentum all in their favor on their opening possession of the second half.  Following a kickoff return by Jax Booth to the Aviators 42, the Quakers used just four plays to score.

Quakers quarterback Jackson Johnson would score his first of two touchdowns in the half when he dove into the endzone from 2-yards out.  That touchdown came just 1:10 into the third quarter, giving the Quakers their first lead of the game at 14-13.

The Quakers would quickly score again on another run by Johnson, this time a 6-yards run with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter.  That gave the Quakers the final 7-point margin of 20-13.

“We had to get our confidence up,” Quakers quarterback Jackson Johnson said.  “We knew we could stop them.  We played well toward the end.  We got our running game going.”

He added, “We’re rolling now.  It feels good.  Our offensive line is picking up and our running backs are playing a lot better.  We have to play better run defense, but we’re getting there.”

Jackson Johnson would run for 107 yards on 26 carries to lead the Quakers in rushing, and he would also throw for 196 yards on 15 of 24 attempts.

But it was the Quaker’s defense that would come up big in the final moments of the contest.  With 7:12 remaining in the game, the Aviators would drive 42-yards to the Quakers 33.  With just 1:20 left in the game, Aviators quarterback Brendon Zurbrugg rolled to his right and fired a pass.  Jax Booth, would step in front of the Aviators receiver Dylan Bugara to turn away their last-ditch attempt.

“Earlier, I’m pretty sure it was at the end of the first half I saw them run that exact same play where number two ran a wheel route and I stayed back and once the quarterback threw it, I ran up and got it.  It secured the game,” Booth explained.

“End of the game.  Go out into victory (formation). Best play in football,” Quakers coach Ron Johnson remarked.

The Aviators, who finish the regular season with a 0-6 record, gave the Quakers everything they could handle in the first half as they rushed for 176 yards.  Aviators running back Kayden Davis would end the night with 200 yards on 30 carries and two touchdowns.

The Aviators took control of the contest on their first possession when they marched 53-yards on 8 plays with Davis scoring on a 9-yard run.  That touchdown came at the 9:45 mark of the first quarter.

The Quakers would answer midway through the second quarter when Jason Austin would score on a 9-yards run to knot the game at 7-0.  That touchdown came with 5:58 left in the first half.

But the Aviators would retake the lead just before halftime when Davis scored from just 3-yards out.  The Quakers would block the extra point to make 13-7 in favor of the Aviators at halftime.

“We shut them out in the second half.  It was an incredible effort by our defense.  Our defensive coordinator Jake Carner and his staff did a phenomenal job at halftime to make the right adjustments,” Ron Johnson said.

“Our defense struggled a little bit defending the run, we recognized what they were doing and we had a good game plan,” Booth said.  “The theme was to swarm the offense and get everybody to the ball, and I think we did that.”

The Aviators will play at Hubbard next Saturday in the first round of the OHSAA playoffs in Division IV, Region 13 action.

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