Despite coming up short, Connolly felt Salem had to go for the win in regulation.
“The way their offense was rolling, give them the ball inside the 10?,” Connolly said of a possible overtime scenario. “We were saying that we were going to win the game now, or try the onside kick and go down the field and win the game in regulation.”
Valles was a big reason why Connolly didn’t want to give the ball to Danvers in overtime.
“He’s fast, big, strong. He’s like 190 pounds and he runs that power hard,” Connolly said. “You gotta wrap up and body him up — and we did a lot of arm tackling tonight, which didn’t help us.”
The night couldn’t have started any better for Salem. Jonathan Crimble took the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, then Austin Connolly fell on a loose ball when the ensuing kickoff was popped up into open space. Speliotis then took the next handoff 31 yards for a touchdown and Salem led, 14-0, with only 27 seconds having ticked off the clock.
Speliotis’ second TD run — a 1-yarder — pushed Salem’s lead to 21-7. Danvers pulled even when Valles scored his second touchdown, then the Falcons recovered their own onside kick.
“Stay to the game plan,” said Rogers about the advice he gave his team after they fell behind early. “We know that we’re a grind-it-out football team and if a team jumps on us, then we have to have faith that we can eat up the clock, limit their possessions and make the most of our possessions.”
By the time the two teams hit the locker room, Salem led 33-28.
The score see-sawed in the second half. Valles scored on a 53-yard run to give Danvers a 40-39 lead with 8:36 remaining, and Alex Grant crashed in from 2 yards for a 46-39 lead with only 1:25 to go.
“Valles has really started to run hard the second half of the season,” Rogers said. “He’s running downhill, but a lot of credit goes to Alex Grant blocking in front of him and Anthony Garron stepped up for us tonight. John Thomas tweaked his ankle and Garron came in and ran like an animal. That’s what we need guys to do.”