GLOUCESTER — Through the first 11 minutes last night at Newell Stadium, the Salem football team looked like it was ready to push Gloucester for a full four quarters.
Momentum can be a fickle ally, however, and once it turned against the Witches, it never returned.
Salem produced points on a long, textbook drive in the first quarter, but the Fishermen scored on five straight possessions to pull away from their guests for a 43-15 victory.
Senior fullback Jordan Pallazola ran for 126 yards and four touchdowns to lead Gloucester (2-0) while Jon Good ran for 147 yards and a score. Senior running back John Curcuru needed only three carries to collect 59 yards and one TD before leaving the game with an injury.
“We had a great, long drive that basically took the whole quarter out, and we went and scored,” Salem coach Scott Connolly said. “Then, it was about playing defense. We didn’t do a good job tackling and No. 2 (Pallazola) is one heck of a player and we need 11 hats on the ball with him. Even when we got him at the line of scrimmage he’s still bowling for 2-3 yards. He’s a big, tough runner and offensively they’re very good. We knew it.”
Curcuru broke a 49-yard run for a touchdown on Gloucester’s first drive, but the snap on the extra point was botched and Salem senior Shakir White returned it 85 yards for two points.
The Witches (0-1) then mounted their 13-play, 75-yard drive capped by Genrri Rosario’s 6-yard touchdown run. Salem’s extra point failed, but the Witches held an 8-6 lead with less than a minute to play in the first quarter.
Gloucester had little trouble answering and then Salem’s battle became field position, starting its next two possessions deep in its own territory.
“They gave us fits. Our defense had trouble stopping them,” Gloucester coach Tony Zerilli said. “They’ve got a good running game and if you don’t read it right and stay home and play disciplined football, they can put a lot of points up on you real quick. Once the defense started to figure out how to defeat them, it flipped over and we started running the ball on them. I think we wore them down a little bit.”
Gloucester relied on the powerful running of Pallazola, but also sprinkled in Good to keep the Witches honest.
“You almost know what they’re running and you can’t stop it,” Connolly said.
Pallazola had touchdown runs of 6, 5 and 1-yard in the second quarter to help Gloucester pull away.
Good scored his only touchdown on the first play after Jacob Emerson blocked a Salem punt early in the third quarter.
Pallazola pushed Gloucester’s lead to 43-8 with another 1-yard plunge early in the fourth quarter.
Salem’s final points came on a 6-play, 47-yard drive when White took a sweep 9 yards to paydirt.
The Witches had some success moving the ball on the ground as senior quarterback Austin Connolly rushed for 96 yards on 15 carries. Senior running back Aaron Palmer added 66 yards on the ground for Salem.
“We have some weapons, it’s just a matter of getting the right person the ball at the right time,” Connolly said. “Austin had a good game. He ran tough and Aaron Palmer ran tough and Rosario ran tough, and if you get White in space he’s pretty good. We just have to keep getting better.”