Salem advances to state championship, defeating Tuscarora 31-21

Spartans to face Phoebus for Class 4 title

LEESBURG, Va. – For the second time in four seasons, Salem battled Tuscarora in the state semifinals. While the Spartans are one of the more balanced teams in the area but the Huskies could say the same. But this one came down to who could win the battle on fourth down.

Salem fans traveling well as they usually do ready to see the Spartans dominate. The Huskies were dialed in early.

Quarterback Thomas Peede looking like Baker Mayfield with the keeper…gets a big gain up the sideline. But Salem forced a turnover on downs. Scoreless entering the second quarter.

Then, a breakthrough. Peede on 4th and 12…goes deep to Dawson Pough and it’s like a paycheck…just in time. 7-0, Tuscarora is in the lead.

Spartans offense wakes up. Eli Taylor hands off to Payton Lewis and the future Tennessee Volunteer…like Campbell’s Soup…mm mm good. Over 100 rushing yards in the first half. Tied 7-7.

Second half…Salem feeding Lewis again. On a direct snap…2 breaks through and is off to the races. 14-7 Salem with momentum.

Tuscarora 4th and goal at the one — the Spartans get the big stop. But the Huskies force this fumble and score on the ensuing drive. It’s Peede in for the game-tying TD.

But Tuscarora had no answer for Peyton Lewis. He rushed for two more scores to account for all of Salem’s TDs. And the Spartans defense tightened up in the 31-21 victory.

“When you’re prepared and you work hard all winter long, all spring long, all summer long in the heat and together in high-stress preparation—you’re ready for moments like this,” said Salem Head Coach Don Holter.

“We knew they were going to come with their best and we were going to come with our best and it was going to come down to the last yard and it seems like you know we just wanted it more, and it just seemed like our will to win was just better than theirs and we came out victorious,” said Peyton Lewis, Spartans RB/LB.

So the Spartans return to the class for the state championship next weekend a Liberty University. Salem will play for its 11th state title in program history.

About the Authors:

Eric is no stranger to the Roanoke Valley. He is a Roanoke native and proud graduate of William Fleming High School.

Lauren Helkowski joined WSLS 10’s digital team in August 2022, but has held a passion for storytelling long before.