Alliance, OH- On a beautiful Friday, Homecoming for Marlington, the Dukes began their night in hopes of upsetting the high-powered Salem Quaker offense. The game became an unexpected defensive battle early, with both defenses playing at an elite level. While the Dukes defense made the game interesting early on, the Quakers proved to be too much in the end cruising to a 35-17 road victory.
The first quarter quickly became a defensive battle for both teams. Marlington was able to limit Salem’s big-play ability and hold them scoreless throughout the quarter. However, Marlington’s offense was also held scoreless after the first quarter, after an acrobatic interception by Salem and a turnover on downs. To open the second quarter, Marlington quarterback Connor Evanich helped lead a productive drive down into the red zone, leading to a Caleb Carr 31-yard field goal to put the Dukes ahead 3-0.
Trailing 3-0 early in the second quarter, Salem’s offense began to come to life. Faced with a third-and-long from the Marlington 31-yard line, quarterback Jackson Johnson ran the ball down the right sidelines for a 31-yard touchdown, putting the Quakers up 7-3. After several strong defensive possessions for both teams throughout the second quarter, Salem seized another opportunity to score right before halftime. Set up at the two-yard line thanks to a long punt return by Blaize Exline, the Quakers ended the half with a two-yard touchdown run once again by Johnson to take the 14-3 lead into halftime.
After forcing a quick Marlington punt to start the second half, Johnson once again rushed for another touchdown, this time from 34 yards out to put the Quakers on top 21-3. The third quarter proved to be tough for Marlington on the offensive side of the ball, unable to put any points on the board. The Dukes were able to drive to the Salem 16-yard line but were stopped just short on fourth down. On the ensuing Salem possession, Johnson connected with Blaize Exline on a 54-yard screen pass, adding another touchdown for the Quakers. Salem would lead 28-3 entering the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter saw the Marlington offense click to begin the quarter. Quarterback Connor Evanich connected on a long 35-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cooper Scarlott for Marlington’s first touchdown of the game and cut the deficit to 28-10. After a successful recovery on the ensuing onside kick, the Dukes drove deep into Quaker territory. However, on an attempted halfback pitch from Evanich to running back Luke Tortola, Salem defensive lineman Damon Wolfe read the play perfectly to intercept the pitch and return it 93 yards for another Salem touchdown. Marlington would add another touchdown in the fourth quarter via an eight-yard touchdown pass from Evanich to Beau Himmelheber, but the deficit proved too much. With the clock striking zero, Salem was victorious with the 35-17 win.
Salem quarterback Jackson Johnson was named the Gionino’s Player of the Game after his four touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) helped power the Quakers to victory. It was another great game for Jackson and the Quaker offense who have now scored 35 points or more in all but one game this season. The win also holds major implications for Salem for the Eastern Buckeye Conference championship race. The win moves Salem into a tie for second place in the conference with a 6-1 record (2-1 EBC). The Quakers will travel next week to Carrollton (5-2, 2-1 EBC) to take on the Warriors in a battle for sole possession of second place in the EBC. With the loss, Marlington falls to 2-5 (1-3 EBC) on the season. The Dukes will look to rebound next week when playing host to non-conference opponent New Philadelphia (4-3).