It didn’t take long for Houston coach Chris Edwards to put this loss behind him.
After all, he and the Tigers have something more important in sight: district play.
Completing its final game of the non-district portion of its schedule and still without three injured starters, Houston offered little resistance Friday night as perennial power Salem rolled to an easy 55-20 victory.
The numbers were ugly for the Tigers (4-3, 2-3 SCA). But as soon as he broke the huddle after addressing his team, Edwards was ready to move on.
“We’ll try to look at the positives, fix the negatives and go from there,” Edwards said. “We’re 4-3 and heading into districts. Hopefully the kids and coaching staff will be positive about that and get back to work. “
Houston, which hasn’t made the postseason since its second straight semifinal appearance in 2006, has increased odds this season. The top two teams in the district advance for the first time thanks to a rules change. The Tigers’ journey toward one of the two available playoff positions begins Friday when they travel to winless Willow Springs.
Edwards said two-way starters Ty Scheets and Brad Pounds, who have both been sidelined three games, will suit up against the Bears. David Foster will sit out a fourth straight game.
Having either or both of their missing captains may not have helped the Tigers against Salem.
Grinding away yard after yard with its patented option offense and breaking off big plays with its passing game, Salem racked up 427 rushing yards and gained another 151 through the air on just five pass attempts.
“They run that option and they run it well,” Edwards said. “What option teams do is they force you to play responsibility football. If they’re good at it and you make mistakes, they exploit it for big plays.”
Salem certainly did.
Quarterback Cody Wofford completed touchdown passes of 60 and 31 yards, and running back Yousef Ibrahim had rushing scores of 60 and 51 yards to account for half of Salem’s eight touchdowns.
Salem scored all three times after intercepting Houston quarterback David Weybright and had three scoring drives that lasted one play.
“It was an obviously rough night. We had a lot of mental breakdowns,” Edwards said. “When you do that against a team that is physically stronger than you are, it’s going to be a long night. They were able to exploit it and get some big plays out of it.”
The Tigers didn’t get a first down until Weybright’s 6-yard pass to Martin Crawford 1 minute, 59 seconds before halftime. The next play was an interception that led to Kevin Presley’s 31-yard reception from Wofford that made it 35-7.
Houston scored twice in a wild second quarter – both bombs from Weybright to Kyle Poynter. They hooked up for touchdowns of 77 and 51 yards as the teams combined for six touchdowns in the quarter.
Poynter, a transfer from Lebanon playing in just his third game, has emerged as a big-play receiver with Scheets sidelined. He has 335 receiving yards and five scores in the past two games while averaging 33.5 yards per reception.
Weybright, who had a 9-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter, finished 10-of-23 passing for 206 yards. His three interceptions were a season high.
“We had some big plays on offense, but we weren’t able to drive the ball,” Edwards said. “That put the defense in some bad spots.”
After punting on its opening drive, Salem scored touchdowns on its next five possessions. Its sixth ended at halftime on the Houston 27-yard line.
Ibrahim ran untouched through the middle of the Tigers’ defense on the first play of the second half. Salem scored on three straight possessions before punting early in the fourth quarter with a commanding 55-14 advantage.
SALEM 55, HOUSTON 20
Salem 7 28 20 0 – 55
Houston 0 14 0 6 – 20
SAL – Presley 60 pass from Wofford (Presley kick), 1:08.
SAL – Freeman 24 run (kick failed), 11:53.
SAL – Wooford 36 run (Presley kick), 9:21.
HOU – Poynter 77 pass from Weybright (Case kick), 8:26.
SAL – Ibrahim 5 run (Freeman run), 2:56.
SAL – Presley 31 pass from Wooford (Presley kick), 1:40.
HOU – Poynter 51 pass from Weybright (Case kick), 0:30.
SAL – Ibrahim 60 run (Presley kick), 11:42.
SAL – Ibrahim 51 run (run failed), 4:10.
HOU – Weybright 9 run (kick failed), 5:04.
First downs 16 6
Total net yards 578 274
Rushes-yards 54-427 17-68
Passing 151 206
Punt returns 0-0 1-10
Kickoff returns 3-70 8-204
Comp-Att-Int 4-5-0 10-23-3
Sacked-yards lost 0-0 1-8
Punts-avg. 2-25.0 4-34.3
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-yards 4-25 1-5
RUSHING – Salem, Ibrahim 14-186, Freeman 15-111, Wofford 5-54, Boyd 6-30, Oliver 6-24, Arnett 2-13, Moore 3-8, Floyd 1-4, Karr 1-(minus 1), Smith 1-(minus 2). Houston, Weybright 7-37, Schmidt 10-31.
PASSING – Salem, Wooford 4-5-0 151. Houston, Weybright 10-23-3 206.
RECEIVING – Salem Presley 3-116, Smith 1-35. Houston, Poynter 3-133, Crawford 3-33, Wilson 3-29, Schmidt 1-11.