WEST SALEM, Wis. — Despite no longer being in the Coulee Conference together, the G-E-T and West Salem high school football teams delivered a traditional Coulee smash-mouth type of game Friday night.
The Red Hawks won the battle of wills 14-6 at West Salem High School thanks in part to a stout second-half defense, and a pair of 60-yard touchdown runs.
For the majority of the game it was a war of attrition, a lot of action between the 20-yard lines, but it seemed like when an offense touched the opponent’s 40, the defense tightened up. West Salem forced two turnovers on downs, a fumble, and a turnover in their own territory while G-E-T forced a fumble, an interception, and a turnover on downs inside their own 40.
The Panthers took the lead on a Therrick Roberts 4-yard touchdown run. Roberts carried the ball 26 times for 114 yards to lead the Panthers attack. But outside of him, the Panthers tallied just 90 yards.
“The hard-fought, back-and-forth game is something that we are familiar with G-E-T,” West Salem coach Justin Jehn said. “We just didn’t play well enough to win tonight. You can’t turn the ball over as many times as we did.”
G-E-T held the Panthers to 88 total yards in the second half.
“Well, coach was saying we were getting beat off the ball and getting out-physical-ed,” quarterback/safety Sawyer Schmidt said. “We just had to something in the second half and we were able to get a couple of turnovers.”
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Running back Bryce Burns staked his claim for run of the year with his 66-yard touchdown to tie the game at 6 in the second quarter. Burns broke three tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage before stiff-arming a West Salem defender to the ground. Burns finished with 144 yards on 14 carries.
“I have had that stiff arm since my sophomore year,” Burns said with a grin. “It’s my go-to move.”
The game would stay tied until the G-E-T defense forced a quick three-and-out to give the ball back to their offense with just over two minutes left in the fourth. The next offensive snap, Luke Vance took a handoff 60 yards for a score and the two-point conversion was successful to make it 14-6.
“I just saw the cutback open and I just took everything I had and put it out there,” Vance said. “And I ended up making it.”
West Salem made it interesting, marching into G-E-T territory before Samuel Johnson picked off West Salem quarterback Justin Barney inside the 30. Overall, G-E-T coach Jon Steffenhagen was pleased with the progress his team showed as the game went on.
“I think both sides of the ball we got better as the game went on,” Steffenhagen said. “The first half I really believed we played like young players that didn’t have varsity experience. Some deer in the headlights...But little by little I could start to see their confidence starting to gain.”