WILMINGTON – It was like an old-fashioned tug of war.
Except this time, instead of two teams pulling a rope, two teams were smashing into each other – repeatedly.
No. 4 Salesianum won the physical battle on Saturday night at Baynard Stadium, gradually wearing down No. 3 Concord and pulling away for a 27-0 victory.
“We’re very happy with the way we responded,” Sals coach Bill DiNardo said. “We knew with the injuries that we had, that we had to play a very physical game defensively. We had to play a very physical, old-school game offensively. We were missing [receiver-defensive back] Michael Drake tonight, and that’s a big loss for us. But our kids responded so well.”
The Sals (4-2) played old-school football at its finest. Bruising running backs Josh Patrick (18 carries, 93 yards) and Peyton Mullin (10 carries, 73 yards) led a between-the-tackles assault that netted 281 rushing yards on the night.
“The line did a great job all night,” said Sallies quarterback Zach Gwynn, who added 74 yards on just three carries. “Props to the line. They dominated their defensive line tonight. Whatever works, we’re going to do it.”
The Raiders (5-1) felt this was their best shot to take down the Sals, after losing in each of the last five years. But Concord’s chances were compromised when star running back Grahm Roberts left the game with a leg injury late in the first half. He did not return.
A turnover set up the Sals’ first score, as linebacker Joe Gormley picked off a pass over the middle and returned it 12 yards to the Concord 48. Sallies took nine straight running plays to ram it in from there, with Mullin covering the final yard on the final play of the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.
The Raiders struggled to gain much traction, and Roberts left after a 1-yard gain with 1:56 left in the second quarter. He finished with six carries for just 8 yards, and Concord could only manage 129 yards on 37 rushes all night.
Concord’s best scoring chance came midway through the third quarter, but a bobbled snap kept the Raiders from attempting a 47-yard field goal. The Sals took over and went on a 60-yard drive, with Patrick scoring from 18 yards out to make it 13-0.
The Raiders punted to end the third quarter, and Gwynn turned what appeared to be a broken play into a 53-yard touchdown keeper up the middle on the first play of the final period.
“I kind of just forgot. It kind of just broke down,” Gwynn said. “I saw a hole and just took off. I don’t really remember what happened, honestly.”
The Sals punched in one more score following a short punt. Nick Merlino broke free for a 28-yard touchdown run to make it 27-0 with 3:31 to play. Gutsy Concord quarterback Sean Doogan zigzagged for a 53-yard gain to move the Raiders to the Sals 13 late, but Sallies’ Casey Spink recovered a third-down fumble to preserve the shutout.
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.