By Greg Gulas
The LaBrae Vikings want to return to the playoffs, last earning a postseason spot in 2008.
If the Salem Quakers expect to earn a third straight playoff appearance, then the improvement that they make between weeks one and two could be the springboard necessary to realizing that goal.
Peyton Aldridge threw three touchdown passes and the LaBrae defense forced three turnovers as the Vikings defeated the Quakers, 21-7 in the season opener Thursday at Reilly Stadium.
“Peyton is going to be an outstanding quarterback. He came on last year at the end of the season and did a nice job for us tonight.
“We felt that if we played hard tonight then we’d have a chance to win and that was exactly the case,” LaBrae coach Bill Bohren said.
Matt Szorady added 60 yards rushing for the Vikings, logging 21 of LaBrae’s 32 overall attempts.
“I like being the workhorse. As a senior, it’s up to me to take it to the next level and tonight was a good start for everyone,” said Szorady
“Our defense forced three turnovers and that really helped us with good field position all night.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Aldridge found Carrington Herron from 8yards out with just 49 seconds remaining in the opening half for a 6-0 Viking lead at intermission.
On the third play of the second half, Aldridge, just a sophomore, connected on a 56-yard scoring strike to Szorady and when Carl Brown added the conversion, LaBrae (1-0) increased its lead to 14-0.
“This sure was a great way to start the season. Our offensive line blocked well all night and that gave me plenty of time to throw the ball,” said Aldridge.
“My receivers were open and it just seemed as if everyone stepped up when new needed them to tonight.”
Aldridge then found Brown with a 21-yard pass at 9:20 of the final period, his third scoring strike of the night as the Vikings forged a 21-0 advantage.
Just when it looked as if LaBrae was set to register a shutout, Salem’s Gage Piatt broke free from 17 yards away with just 31 seconds remaining.
“Tonight, LaBrae certainly did the little things necessary in order to win a game,” said Salem coach Mike Kopachy. “We didn’t help ourselves out with three turnovers and crucial penalties, but take nothing away from their effort.
“I’m disappointed in the way we played because we had higher expectations than what we showed tonight.”
The Quakers’ Austin Noel had a game high 110 yards rushing on 20 carries while first-game execution for both teams was tested with LaBrae incurring eight penalties for 65 yards, and the Quakers being flagged 10 times for 95 yards.