Salem’s run to the state football championship hit a speed bump Saturday afternoon as the Spartans fell to Heritage 24-16 in the Group AA Division 4 semifinal at Salem Stadium.
Heritage’s ultra-quick quarterback JeVontae Parrish did most of the damage, running for 164 yards on keepers, and throwing a pair of touchdown passes that proved the difference on the sunny afternoon.
The loss, Salem’s first of the year, ended the Spartan’s season at 12-1 and a chance to play for the state title Saturday at Liberty University.
Salem head coach Steven Magenbauer, gunning for his third title, fell to his former teammate and former Patrick Henry head coach Brad Bradley, in his first year at Heritage.
After a scoreless opening quarter, Salem took its first lead of the game when senior placekicker Scott Look connected on a 37-yard field goal for a 3-0 Spartan advantage. Parrish then answered for Heritage, capping off a drive with a 7-yard burst that put the Pioneers up 7-3.
Salem grabbed its last lead of the game when quarterback Matt Hill hit Chad Fisher on a 10-yard strike that sent Salem up 10-7. Parrish came back with a 22-yard touchdown pass to DeMonte Elliot that sent the teams to the locker room with the Pioneers holding the slim 14-10 lead.
The turning point of the game came early in the fourth quarter. Starting on their own 11-yard line after a Salem punt, Parrish broke into the secondary and raced 64 yards to the Salem 25. Moments later he found a diving I’Shantii Rosser on a 10-yard strike in the left side of the end zone.
That would prove to be all Heritage would need, although Salem closed to 21-16 midway through the fourth on a 2-yard touchdown run by Devante Payne. The two-point conversion was stuffed, leaving Salem down 21-16.
The Spartans went for the onsides kick but Heritage recovered and the Pioneer offense milked the clock to the final minute before Kieran Phelps tacked on a 26-yard field goal for the final margin.
Out of timeouts, Salem saw its season end when Hill was intercepted on a desperation heave.
Heritage outgained Salem 196-154 on the ground, while Hill had the upper hand in the passing game for Salem, throwing for 177 yards on 15 completions from 29 attempts.
BILL TURNER game story/photo