There was an unfamiliar sight during halftime of Friday’s football game at Salem Stadium.
At halftime, visiting Christiansburg was well within striking distance of Timesland No. 1 Salem, trailing only by a point.
The Spartans made sure to return things to normal for their fans’ enjoyment of homecoming festivities, as they dominated the second-half en route to a 41-13 River Ridge District victory.
The victory was the ninth consecutive in the series for Salem, which had outscored the Blue Demons by a total of 313-56 over the previous six meetings.
Salem (5-0, 2-0) scored touchdowns on each of its five second-half possessions and rolled up nearly 200 of its 300-plus rushing yards over the final two quarters. Senior Isaiah Persinger and sophomore Cameron Leftwich led the way out of the backfield, rushing for 151 and 100 yards, respectively. Leftwich added three touchdowns.
First-year Spartans head coach Don Holter was quick to credit the tight first half to what Christiansburg (3-2, 0-1) was doing on the field.
“First, you have to give credit to that football team and coaching staff on the other sideline, because they’re getting better every week. They’ve got a solid record, and they forced us into some mistakes,” Holter said. “Second half, we had a strong discussion about execution in all three phases of the game, and we really came out and made it happen.”
Two of the mistakes that the coach referenced were drive-killers deep in Christiansburg territory in the first half.
After quickly marching 50 yards on seven plays for a touchdown on its first drive, Salem and junior quarterback Hunter Chaney again went to work, advancing 50 yards on just five plays. Chaney was picked off just in front of the goal line with about a minute left in the first quarter.
Christiansburg cut the lead to 7-6 with just over two minutes left in the half on a 26-yard touchdown throw from quarterback MJ Hunter to fellow sophomore Andrew Lloyd.
Salem appeared to have a scoring chance locked up just before the half after a 43-yard pass from Chaney to Jorden McDonald set them up inside the 5, but a lost fumble on the next play ended the threat.
The close halftime score surely woke up both the Salem players and coaches, as the Spartans came out of the locker room on a mission.
The home team marched 50 yards on 12 plays over six minutes on its opening drive before Leftwich recorded his first score from 2 yards out to push the lead to 14-6.
After forcing a three-and-out, Leftwich scored his second touchdown just over four minutes later, this time from just 1 yard out to stretch ahead 20-6.
The most impressive of Salem’s last three drives came on a 27-yard run from junior Zavione Wood, who was hit in the backfield after a handoff on third-and-long. He then broke a few tackles, flipped the field and outraced the remaining defenders for an electric touchdown.
The Spartans’ defense allowed almost 250 yards of offense in the game, but just 80 came in the second half.
“We love to come out swinging in every game and just hit them in the mouth,” Leftwich said. “It took a little longer tonight, but we got it going.”
Christiansburg coach Alex Wilkens believes his team can build off of positives from the first half.
“It was a fine line telling the team how proud we were how we competed against such a great program, but also reminding them that we aren’t in this for moral victories,” Wilkens said. “We had five or six sophomores in key positions making some big plays tonight, and I know it’s just a JV game but we were able to beat [Salem on Thursday,] which we’re happy about. The future is bright for Christiansburg.”