It took some time for the West Salem High School football team to start trading punches as opposed to just taking them from G-E-T on Friday night.
But the Red Hawks were able to absorb them without having to change their game plan and beat the Panthers 31-22 in a nonconference game at Logan High School’s Swanson Field.
Senior Ben Behan rushed for 209 yards and scored three touchdowns — teammate Bryce Burns also scored twice — as the Red Hawks dominated time of possession and pulled away from a 13-13 tie in the third quarter.
G-E-T (2-0) rushed for 461 yards and ran 67 plays to hold off the Panthers, who tightened the game up with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Beirne to Trenton Foreman in the final minute.
A missed extra point left West Salem needing two possessions with 59.5 seconds left, and Dylan Johnson recovered the onside kick impressively while taking a huge hit by a group of Panthers to allow his team to run out the clock on a significant victory.
“We can’t change what they do, only how we react to it,” G-E-T offensive lineman Nathan Riehle said of the Panthers’ ability to stay in the game after the Red Hawks, who played an emotional game after the loss of teacher Brady Olson in a mowing accident during the week, got off to a dominant start. “We knew we could keep things going.”
West Salem (1-1) tied the game at 13 when Beirne broke free for a 60-yard touchdown run on the fifth snap of the third quarter. A 7-yard first-down run by Brendan Holt moved the ball to West Salem’s 40-yard line before Beirne faked a pitch, turned up the middle of the field and ran untouched to the end zone.
A handful of G-E-T defenders appeared to have good angles on Beirne, but he breezed by them, then kicked the extra point to tie the score with 9:55 left in the third quarter.
Behan answered with a 63-yard run on G-E-T’s second snap of the next possession — Matt Bigley chased him down at the 11-yard line — and that set up a 2-yard scoring run by Burns.
Beirne added a 38-yard field goal on the Panthers’ next possession to get West Salem within 19-16, but G-E-T went back to clock management with a 14-play touchdown drive that took it 80 yards and lasted more than 10 minutes.
“If we can control the clock, we control the ball, and we’re successful,” Behan said. “Clock management is very important to us.”
While G-E-T ran 67 offensive plays, West Salem managed only 28.
Beirne went 7-for-13 for 195 yards and rushed five times for 80 yards to lead West Salem’s offense, which had only three snaps in the first quarter and six the first two times it had the ball.
The Panthers had all kinds of defensive trouble early.
G-E-T turned its first two possessions into touchdown drives and moved the ball nearly any way it desired.
The first drive covered 72 yards and lasted 9 minutes, 19 seconds. The Red Hawks converted a third-and-6 on a 20-yard run by Connor Jacobs.
The second included more big plays and was finished with a 40-yard run by Behan. He carried three times for 48 yards during that 96-yard drive, but his touchdown was followed by a blocked attempt at the extra point.
The Red Hawks rushed for 241 yards in the first half, and Behan had 103 of them on 11 carries.
West Salem’s offense struggled just as much as its defense and didn’t get its first first down until 6:14 remained in the second half. But that 11-yard pass from Beirne to Jake Whitbeck seemed to spark the team.
Beirne set up a touchdown with a 13-yard pass to Brendan Holt before a screen to Logan Aleckson was taken 38 yards to the end zone.
That drive got the Panthers within 13-6 and included 65 of West Salem’s 73 first-half yards and was set up when Holt recovered a Behan fumble on his own 35-yard line.