AREA HIGH SCHOOLS Salem 49-27 winner at West Branch; Heath hot
The senior had some spectacular plays for the unbeaten Quakers.
BY ERIC HAMILTON
BELOIT -- Salem's Jarin Heath scored so many different ways against West Branch Friday night, he almost had to invent new ways to get into the end zone.
The senior scored four different ways, including three times in the second quarter as Salem exploded for 28 points in the quarter to build a 35-7 halftime lead.
That cushion proved to be more than enough as the Quakers went on to post an impressive 49-27 victory over their rival at Clinton Heacock Stadium.
After scoring on a 44-yard run, a 40-yard punt return and a 43-yard pass from Tom Jesko in the second quarter, Heath added a scintillating 50-yard interception return in the fourth quarter to put West Branch away.
"My job is to make plays and help my teammates as much as I can," said Heath. "My teammates help me by blocking and doing all the dirty work, so I just have to find a way to score. Scoring four different ways against our rival is an awesome feeling.
"I'm not as fast as those West Branch guys are, so I just look for the hole and run as fast as I can and try not to get hit. I'm not that big, so when I get hit it doesn't feel too good.
"It's just great for our team to come out and beat our rival."
West Branch (2-1) scored first in both halves, but had problems producing much offense the rest of the night. The Warriors registered just two first downs in the first half and were unable to come up with the big plays in key situations.
Salem's offense controlled the clock and used the running of J.J. Johnson to keep the potent West Branch offense off the field.
After the Warriors scored on the game's opening possession on a 63-yard pass from Matt Catania to Eric Baltputnis, the Quakers answered with its longest drive of the game.
Johnson carried 11 times for 53 yards during Salem's 15-play, 80-yard scoring march that took over eight minutes off the clock. The drive was capped by a 2-yard TD run by Johnson.
According to West Branch coach Bob Altenhof, not only did the Salem (3-0) score tie the game, it was instrumental in disrupting any momentum the West Branch offense had built.
"We scored right away which was important, but we didn't get the ball back for what seemed like forever and that really kept us from getting into a rhythm offensively," said Altenhof. "We couldn't get things going after that and defensively we couldn't stop them.
"Salem really has some nice players. Heath is a great player and we tried to do some special things to slow him down, but nothing worked."
West Branch cut the deficit to 35-14 after Scott Thomas scored from 1-yard out with 5:04 remaining in the third quarter.
But Heath came up with another big play to swing the momentum back to the Quakers. Back in pass coverage, he picked off a Catania pass at midfield and weaved through a crowd of would-be tacklers to the end zone for his fourth touchdown.
"We expect stuff like that from Jarin," said Salem coach Doug Phillips. "He's been making plays like that for years. That punt return came when we called for a blocked punt. A return wasn't even set up. He made that happen himself.
"This win is for the other seniors who have worked hard for four years. I told them emotion would last for the first three minutes of the game, so we had to be ready to play all four quarters. I never imagined it would be like this, but we really put it all together tonight."
Heath finished with seven catches for 41 yards and his four touchdowns. Jesko completed 9-of-12 passes for 110 yards and two scores. Johnson carried 22 times for 158 yards.
West Branch was led by Scott Thomas, who finished with 118 yards on 10 carries.