BELOIT — The weather cleared and it was bombs away in Beloit Saturday afternoon as Salem and West Branch resumed their football game that was postponed by lightning at halftime Friday night.
When the last aerial attack fell, it was West Branch which claimed a 44-20 Eastern Buckeye Conference win over the Quakers in Clinton Heacock Stadium. The two teams combined to throw 66 passes in the game for a combined 506 yards.
“It (the offense) was clicking,” said West Branch head coach Ken Harris. “The kids are pumped (to beat Salem). It’s been an up and down year and this is a really good way to start it off.”
With the win, the Warriors snapped a three-game losing streak against the Quakers.
West Branch piled up 536 yards of total offense, triggered by senior quarterback Brock Hillyer, who accounted for 434 yards of total offense himself. Hillyer rushed for 82 yards on nine carries and completed 32-of-44 passes for 352 yards and two touchdowns.
“It’s the first time I’ve gotten a win over them (the Quakers) and it meant a lot of different things,” said Hillyer. “I’m super lucky to have the receivers I have — I can’t just take credit for my performance.”
“We just couldn’t stop them,” said Salem head coach Ron Johnson. “They (the Warriors) have too many quality people they have the opportunity to go to. West Branch played very well. It’s a good football team and we have to play better.”
Hillyer, a three-year starter, spread the ball around among nine different Warrior receivers as West Branch flashed its overall team speed and skill. Nick Wilson led all West Branch receivers with eight catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. He also had an interception on defense.
Salem, which couldn’t generate much offense during Friday night’s rainiest, got its offense rolling under the hot sun Saturday afternoon as the Quakers amassed 221 yards after having just 57 yards on Friday night. Sophomore quarterback Jackson Johnson accounted for 244 yards with 90 yards rushing on 17 carries and 154 yards passing on 10-of-22 with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“They (the Quakers) are a good offense,” said Harris. “We stopped them when we had to.”
West Branch led 14-0 after Friday night’s postponement on a Josh Gregory 5-yard scoring pass from Hillyer and an Alek Wilson five-yard run.
Salem trimmed West Branch’s lead on its first possession of Saturday’s action when Johnson hit Blaize Exline with a short pass and he took it 65 yards to the end zone, making it 14-6 after a missed conversion try.
“Last night we didn’t get off to a great start but today we responded the right way,” said Johnson. “We had some guys step up and make some plays. I thought Blaize Exline did a nice job.”
But West Branch’s offense was unstoppable as the Warriors scored on four of their six second-half possessions and went back up 22-6 on an 11-yard scoring scamper by Hillyer. The Warriors also added the two-point conversion on a pass from Hillyer to Nick Wilson.
Salem again trimmed the deficit when running back Jason Austin raced around left end from six yards out and Johnson completed the conversion pass to Brock Young, cutting the West Branch had to 22-14 with 1:11 showing in the third quarter.
But West Branch scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to seal the game away on a four-yard scoring run by Alek Wilson, a 48-yard pass from Hillyer to Nick Wilson and a three-yard quarterback keeper by Hillyer, who also had a conversion run. Ben Tolson kicked two of the West Branch PAT boots.
Hillyer praised the play of West Branch’s offensive line which has three new starters.
“There are some new guys (on the line) and we all trust in each other,” noted the West Branch quarterback.
Salem’s final score of the game occurred on a fourth-down pass of 20 yards from Johnson to Exline. The conversion pass failed.
• Both Salem and West Branch are on the road for EBC games next Friday.
The Quakers play at Canton South.
“It (Canton South) is a team that always plays us very tough, it’s a tough place to play because it’s a long trip and we’ll go over there and give it our best shot,” said Johnson.
• Meanwhile, West Branch treks to Minerva Friday evening to play the Lions.
“This (win) sets the tone, now we have somebody next week that we’re looking forward to from last year,” said Harris. “Our goal is to get better every week so we’ll see if we do that next Friday.”
SALEM: 0-0-14-6 — 20
WEST BRANCH: 7-7-8-22 — 44
WB — Josh Gregory,5 pass from Brock Hillyer, 7:54 1st (Ben Tolson kick)
WB –Alek Wilson 5 run, 35.7 2nd (Ben Tolson kick)
S — Blaize Exline 65 pass from Jackson Johnson, 11:41 3rd (Run failed)
W– Brock Hillyer 11 run, 8:04 3rd (Nick Wilson pass from Brock Hillyer)
S — Jason Austin 6 run, 1:11 3rd (Brock Young pass from Jackson Johnson)
WB– Alek Wilson 4 run, 11:30 4th (Brock Hillyer run)
S– Blaize Exline 20 pass from Jackson Johnson, 8:47 4th (Pass failed)
WB — Nick Wilson 48 pass from Brock Hillyer, 8:01 4th (Ben Tolson kick)
WB — Brock Hillyer 3 run, 5:11 4th (Ben Tolson kick)
First downs 13 30
Total yards 278 535
Rushes-yards 30-122 29-163
Passing 154 352
Comp-Att-Int 10-22-2 32-44-2
Punts 4-45 2-36
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 2-20 7-50
RUSHING — Salem, Jackson Johnson 17-90, Jax Booth 2-8, Dillon Monroy 1-3, Blaize Exline 2-6, Jason Austin 7-15; West Branch, Alek Wilson 14-72, Brock Hillyer 9-82, Steve Marra 1-9
PASSING — Salem, Jackson Johnson 10-22-154-2; West Branch, Brock Hillyer, 32-44-352-2
RECEIVING — Salem, Jax Booth, 6-42, Blaize Exline 2-85, Dillon Monroy 1-2; West Branch, David McKeivier 3-21, Josh Gregory 4-55, Steve Marra 1-10, Jaxon Hendershott 2-17, Jed Smith 1-10, Andrew Coffee 2-38, Dru DeShields 3-42, Nick Wilson 8-132, Michael Kanagy 1-15
INTERCEPTIONS — Salem, Jax Booth; West Branch, David McKeivier, Nick Wilson
FUMBLE RECOVERIES — Salem, none; West Branch, none