HAVERHILL, Mass. — Salem head coach Rob Pike remained careful not to hand out too much praise following his team’s 12-0 victory over Division I South foe Pinkerton Academy on Saturday.
Pike, now in his seventh season as Blue Devils mentor, realizes that it is probably not in his best interest to send out any kind of bulletin board material moving forward.
But it is hard to overlook this team, as it improves to 4-1, after posting its fourth shutout inside Trinity Stadium’s Harry E. McNamara Field. All systems appear to be go for the Blue Devils as the second half of the season begins next weekend.
Behind a sturdy rushing attack, Salem took it to the Astros throughout. The Blue Devils finished with 254 total yards, including 214 on the ground, as they look to snatch a postseason berth next month.
While the offense had its day against Pinkerton (2-3) once again, it was the defense that stole the show. The Blue Devils dominated that side of the ball, holding the Astros to 153 yards, and only 39 in the opening half. Salem has allowed a measly 8.4 points in five contests.
For Pinkerton, a two-time Division I runner-up, key losses due to graduation as well as a number of injuries, particularly to the front line, have set them back a spell. More injuries came against Salem, including senior running back Jake MacInnis, who sustained a hard hit in the first half and never returned.
The Blue Devils’ ground-and-pound rushing attack kept Pinkerton on its heels early and often. Senior back Josh Maroun led the assault, finishing with 122 yards on 21 carries and scoring both touchdowns.
“We just kept going and going and continued to work hard against them,” said Maroun. “Everything for us starts at practice. We feel we need to have good offensive and defensive practices so that we all connect together.”
After coughing up the ball deep inside Astros territory midway through the initial quarter, Maroun made amends soon thereafter. Halfway through the second quarter, Salem put forth an 83-yard march before Maroun barreled in from a yard out giving the Blue Devils a 6-0 lead with 31 seconds left before halftime.
On the Blue Devils’ second possession of the closing half, once again, behind Maroun and fellow backs Riley Mulvey (52 yards) and Brandon Wall (33 yards), they again proceeded to puncture the Astros’ defense. After reaching the Pinkerton 5, Maroun completed the 93-yard drive by busting across the goal line to make it a two-score game with 0:34 remaining in the third.
“Our kids played well, and against that team, they are always going to be good,” Pike said. “I thought our kids did a great job answering the challenge today. Our defense has played great. It comes down to execution and the kids have played well by making plays when we needed them too. We have tough kids who all do their job.”
Following the injury to MacInnis, Pinkerton had to switch up its offense coming out for the second half. Starting quarterback Brady Day was inserted to running back and junior Hayden Shattuck took over the signal-calling duties. The strategy did little to blemish Salem. Day, a senior committed to Kansas State for baseball, rushed for 47 yards and caught two passes for 37 yards to lead the Astros.
“You do what you can and put in who you can,” said Pinkerton 42-year coach Brian O’Reilly. “You hope that those you replace can somewhat do the same job. Today we could not establish a line of scrimmage for the first time in many years. I don’t even know the last time we were shut out. It was a struggle today and we played sporadic. But who has equal talent backing up? Nobody does. We will continue to play every game as if it is our last game. But we’re not going to the playoffs and we know that.”