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Saltsburg impressive in first week victory

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2002

SALTSBURG-Could it be that Saltsburg football has finally turned a corner•

Eleven years after their last District 6 championship game, the Trojans were celebrating last Friday night as if they had just won another.

What they actually had done is whip United 21-0 and open some eyes around the rest of the Heritage Conference. Maybe the Saltsburg week is not the equivalent of the bingo free square any longer.

"Now we have to prove it wasn't a fluke," said the Trojans' beleagured coach, Glenn Richards, referring to last year's win over Ligonier than snapped a three year losing record.

Skeptics will be watching to see if Saltsburg can handle Penns Manor Saturday night. And given the Comets' 7-6 opening victory over Marion Center, it's apparent that victory will be no sure thing for the Trojans.

But it was obvious that the Trojans completely outphysicaled the Lions, beating United for the first time since Clint Craft was in Saltsburg Red and White in the mid-1990s.

Craft was an all-around athlete for the Trojans, and so is Rick Spallone, a senior who shifted from quarterback to receiver this year.

Spallone caught four first-half passes from sophomore Marty Steele for 126 yards and two touchdowns, making Richards look like a genius for moving Spallone to receiver.

"He asked for the change, and he did a great job tonight," Richards explained.

One thing that the Trojans have not had much of in recent years is senior leadership, but they had it in abundance last week.

When the Trojans warmed up for the game with their best lineman, tackle Jeff McManis, leaning on a cane as an observer, one would have thought the Trojans were in big trouble.

But fullback Dan Speal was pressed into service at McManis' left tackle spot and did a great job blocking. He was rewarded for his selflessness by being given a handful of runs, and he scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

Sophomore Steele made Spallone's switch to receiver possible with a steady debut, completing four of his six passes, with one interception.

His first throw to Spallone was a short toss into the right flat, but Spallone made it a thing of beauty with some shake and bake moves (and some bad United tackling), cutting back to the left and completing a 60-yard touchdown.

Early in the second quarter Steele hit Spallone down the right sideline when the receiver outran the Lion coverage for a 32 yard TD. Speal's two-point run made it a 14-0 Trojans' lead.

Steele's lone flaw came later in the half when United's Kurt McGinnis picked him off in the end zone.

In the second half, the Lions came charging out determined to mount a comeback, but quarterback Andrew Clevenger, also making his debut, pitched an interception right into the breadbasket of defensive tackle Marcus Williams to end that notion.

That allowed Saltsburg to sit on its lead for most of the second half, although the Trojans did add a third touchdown late in the third quarter when Speal took it home from the four yard line, after Williams' IC.

TROJANS TRIUM-PHANT-Not only did Saltsburg have more players dressed, the school's band was bigger. Is student participation becoming a problem at United?ÉSaltsburg's band did a nice job with its show, featuring a jazzy version of "Georgia On My Mind." United's show was an oldies medley featuring "Hanky Panky."ÉSaltsburg's defense did a great job of spreading the tackles around, one sure sign of players who want to fly to the ball. Mike Dunlap led with just five tackles, and three others had four. But 16 Trojans were credited with tacklesÉOnly 11 Lions made tackles. Louie McElwee led the way with 15, Ryan Bailey was second with eight, and Capitosti made five stopsÉIt was a fair crowd for a Saltsburg-United game, with the field lined with spectatorsÉPerhaps the Blairsville-Saltsburg School Board should hire security guards who don't smoke while in uniform, on dutyÉ

Saltsburg rushers-Dave Wells 14-40, Luke Poloff 9-23, Chris Corridoni 8-53, Dan Speal 5-15, 1 touchdown, Marty Steele 3-6, Travis Bieda 3-(-2), Adam Bressler 1-1.

United rushers-Joe McElwee 14-23, Andrew Clevenger 4-(-22), Adam Capitosti 5-8, Stephen Oleksa 2-(-4).

Saltsburg passers-Steele 6-4-1, 126.

United passers-Clevenger 12-3-1, 53.

Saltsburg receivers: Rick Spallone 4-126, 2 touchdowns.

United receivers-Capitosti 1-35, Ryan Bailey 1-9, Eric Hall 1-9.

Saltsburg punter-Ray Clawson, 3-27.7 average. United punter: Joe McElwee 3-36 average.

TEAM STATISTICS-Rushing: Saltsburg 139, United 5. Passing: Saltsburg 126, United 53. Total offense: Saltsburg: 265, United 58. Return yards: Saltsburg 0, United 63. Fumbles/lost: Saltsburg 1/0, United 1/1. Penalties: Saltsburg 5-35, United 4-35.

Third down conversions: Saltsburg 3 of 11 (2 of 5 on fourth down), United 2 of 10, 0 of 1 on fourth down).

Average gain on first down: Saltsburg 3.1, United 4.0. Total plays: Saltsburg 53, United 38. Average gain per play: Saltsburg 5.0, United 1.5.

BPsaltsburg0906--Dan Speal (45) and Dave Wells were in the driver's seat Friday.

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