The versatile Will Michaud: The Salem High senior began the season as a tight end. But injuries to key players have forced him into new roles — with great success.

SALEM — You wonder how the Salem High School football team absorbed season-ending injuries to a pair of two-way starters and still experienced the level of success it’s had this season, then you speak with Will Michaud and it becomes clear.

Michaud, a senior, began the season as a tight end, but moved to wingback when injuries to Josh Maroun and Riley Mulvey thinned the running back position. Then Michaud shifted to fullback when Dom Paci was injured during the fourth quarter of Salem’s regular-season game against Pinkerton Academy.

That unselfish, team-first attitude is one of the reasons Salem (8-2) is knocking on the door of a spot in the Division I championship game. The third-seeded Blue Devils will face fourth-seeded Pinkerton (8-2) on Saturday in Salem (1 p.m.), and the winner will meet either Merrimack (8-2) or Bedford (10-0) for this year’s title next weekend at the University of New Hampshire.

Maroun (knee) and Paci (ankle) suffered season-ending injuries. Mulvey’s hand injury forced him to miss three games.

“After Riley Mulvey got hurt against Londonderry, Coach Pike (Salem coach Rob Pike) told me at halftime they were going to move me to wingback,” Michaud explained. “I knew he had a plan and I just trusted it. Then, when Dom went down against Pinkerton, I switched to fullback the next play.

“I knew (changing positions) was something I had to do. I needed to step up and be a leader. We have a team full of tough kids. We’ve all fought through adversity this year.”

Michaud, who also starts at outside linebacker, came up big in last weekend’s 33-14 victory over Winnacunnet in the Division I quarterfinals. He ran for a season-high 223 yards and three touchdowns and also intercepted pass to help Salem advance.

Michaud must like the field in Hampton because he gained 118 yards on the ground during a 20-13 triumph at Winnacunnet during the regular season. “The holes were there all day (against Winnacunnet),” Michaud said when he was asked about his performance last week. “It was a playoff game, senior year. I couldn’t let it be my last game. I had to run hard.”

Michaud, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound senior, has rushed for 617 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He’s also near the top of his class academically, and hopes to play in college if he can find a school that offers the right academic and athletic fit.

“Just a smart, hard-working kid in the classroom and in everything he does,” Pike said. “Very coachable. When the coaches tell him to do something he tries to do it as best as he can.”

As much as Michaud has contributed on offense, he’s been even more productive on defense this year. He leads the team with 71 tackles (55 solo), including three sacks. The Blue Devils have held seven of their 10 opponents to 14 points or fewer.

Michaud also started at outside linebacker last season, when Salem lost to Pinkerton in the Division I semifinals. It was Salem’s only loss of the season. He said if he had to choose, he’d prefer to play defense over offense.

“We were counting on him to be a big part of our defense, which he has been,” Pike said. “It’s tough to run to his side, he’s a good pass defender and he’s made some plays when he’s blitzed. He’s raised his game on defense this year.”

According to Pike, Michaud weighed a little more than 100 pounds when he first walked into the Salem weight room as a freshman. Michaud took one look at the Salem seniors who were working out that day and immediately knew he would have to get bigger if he wanted to contribute at the varsity level.

“He never misses a session in the summertime,” Pike said. “When this senior group was coming up, nobody talked about Will being one of the best players or most-talented players. He’s a great example to point to to show kids what you can do if you dedicate yourself.”

Salem will be seeking its second victory over Pinkerton this season when the teams meet Saturday. The Blue Devils prevailed 15-14 in Week 5 of the regular season. That’s the game Michaud became a fullback, a position he’s been playing ever since.

“I feel like both position changes have gone fairly smooth,” Michaud said. “The coaching has really helped and as the season progressed I got more confidence. Anything I could do I was willing to do to help the team win.”

rbrown@unionleader.com