Just a week ago, Salem’s football team needed the better part of four quarters to scrounge up 12 points.
The Spartans bettered that total in two plays in Friday’s Region 4D playoffs opener — and they were just getting started.
The region’s top seed scored six first-half touchdowns and out-yarded eighth-seeded Amherst County 345-42 during the same stretch on the way to a 58-13 win at Salem Stadium.
And the Spartans, who will be playing at home in November for as long as they remain in the playoffs, will host fifth-seeded George Washington in next week’s region semifinals.
“We’re in the postseason now, and we know we have to execute,” Zavione Wood said. “We were focused this week. We know in the playoffs, if you lose, you’re out.”
Wood touched the football just eight times, but made the Lancers pay throughout , finishing with 252 all-purpose yards — 210 of those on seven carries and the other 42 returning a free kick following an Amherst County safety.
“There were some big holes,” Wood said.
Salem forced Amherst County (2-9) into a three-and-out to start the game, then took the lead for good when Wood ran 63 yards, practically untouched, for the Spartans’ first touchdown.
One play after the Lancers punted following another three-and-out, Salem doubled its lead thanks to a quick screen pass from quarterback Hunter Chaney to Jorden McDonald, who then ran 56 yards for another TD.
Two plays, two scores. … Too bad, for the Lancers.
“Our execution was not very good,” Amherst County quarterback Aiden Rose said. “We needed to be 100 percent against these guys, and we just didn’t show it tonight.”
Lancers coach Bob Christmas, who’s in his first season at Amherst County, was standing in the same stadium on the same sidelines a year ago — except he was with a different team — Jefferson Forest — and that squad left with a much different outcome — the Cavaliers beat the Spartans 35-33 that night.
Right now, his new team is in building mode.
“I thoroughly enjoyed coaching these young men this year,” he said. “But we’re starting about seven 10th-graders. I am really excited about the future.”
And while he believes his team is going in the right direction, Christmas said Salem showed his kids how much further they need to go to be playoff-ready.
“We were out-manned tonight,” Christmas said. “We’re still working on getting our minds right.
“We got beat by a seasoned team tonight with a storied tradition, and they played that way.”
While Wood’s rushing performance had few rivals in the area of outstanding play, there were contenders. Chaney threw just four passes on Friday, but completed three of them for a total of 103 yards — two resulted in touchdowns.
Salem also got a big contribution from Wood’s main backfield mate, Cameron Leftwich, who had four carries for 51 yards — the last of those totes resulted in a 3-yard TD run.
Last but not least for Salem, its special teams also came up with points when linebacker Bobby Pinello blocked an Amherst County punt attempt deep in its own territory, leading to a safety.
“They were clean with their execution and blocked well at the point of attack,” said Salem coach Don Holter, who got his first postseason win with the Spartans. “We got to their linebackers, and the running backs ran hard.”
And the competition gets tougher as teams are eliminated.
“We just need to get better every week,” Holter said. “We have the same theme at practice every week — try to get better.”