Here is the preview for tonight’s game. 

TEAM RECORDS: Charleston (3-5, 3-3) @ Salem (2-6, 1-4)

PAST RESULTS: Charleston is riding a three-game winning streak after defeating Mt. Zion 30-27 on Senior Night, Taylorville 27-8, and Mattoon by 35-14. The team’s losses are to Mahomet-Seymour 55-14, Collinsville 35-14, Effingham 31-14, Lincoln 20-0, and Herscher 41-30.

Salem opened the season with a 35-14 loss to Centralia. The team bounced back with a 48-7 win over Alton Marquette Catholic. Five straight losses followed after the win. That included a 41-20 loss to Olney, 42-34 loss to Wood River, 28-7 loss to Roxana, 49-12 loss to Breese Central, and 44-7 loss to Columbia. The team is coming off of last week’s 21-14 win over Freeburg. 

“We are a young team just like Charleston,” said Salem coach Kevin Greene. “We’ve struggled at times this year and played better last week against Freeburg, a team that was still alive for the playoffs. I think we just want to see our kids continue to improve and continue to play more physical, which they did last week.”

TICKETS: Tickets will be sold at the entrance of Salem’s football field near the high school. 

SCHOOL SIZE: Charleston (796), Salem (646)

KICKOFF: 7 p.m.

OPPONENT’S HISTORY: Kevin Greene took over for Scott Steward in 2011. Steward had compiled 108 wins in a 21-year career. Greene went seven seasons with a losing record before leading the team to three appearances in the playoffs between 2018 and 2021. The team’s 7-3 record in 2019 was the team’s highest number of wins since 1999. Greene owns an overall record of 33-54 record in 11 seasons.

SALEM’S RUNNING GAME: Samuel Green, the team’s junior quarterback, leads the team in rushing yards with 606 yards on 80 carries with two touchdowns. However, the featured back on the team is Kason Sullens with 111 attempts for 581 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. As a team, the Wildcats are averaging 238 rushing yards.

“I feel like we have been doing pretty good against the run,” said Charleston coach Jerry Payne. “I don’t think their runners are as elusive as Mount Zion, but they still have some hard, physical backs. We are going to have to wrap up and make tackles.”

SALEM’S PASSING GAME: Green has completed 62 of 108 passes for 633 yards and four touchdowns to six interceptions. Sophomore Kolsyn Quinn has completed one of three passes for 23 yards and an interception. The passing game averages 82.0 yards per game. Sophomore Miking Ettress leads the team in receiving yards with 243 yards on 19 receptions. Four different players have a receiving touchdown.

SALEM’S DEFENSE: Junior Caleb Smith leads the way with 53 tackles, including 38 solo tackles. He is averaging 6.6 tackles per game. Right behind him is senior Gabe Eddings with 40 tackles, which comes out to 5.0 per game. Edding leads the team with 9.0 tackles for loss. Sophomore Luke Anderson leads the team with eight quarterback hurries. Senior Jerry Mayes leads the team with three interceptions, while sophomore Cooper Lobek owns four passes defended. 

MISCELLANEOUS: The weather is projected to be 65 degrees at kickoff with a humidity of 44% and an 0% chance of rain. 

CHARLESTON’S RUNNING GAME: Jeremiah Hayes leads the team with 509 yards rushing on 88 carries and three touchdowns in seven games. Brett Spour adds 58 rushes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. 

CHARLESTON’S PASSING GAME: Spour has completed 78 of 144 passes for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games. Luke Bonnstetter has pulled in 14 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Luke Nelson owns 19 receptions for 253 yards receiving. 

WHAT SALEM SAID: “The Charleston kids and Coach Payne have done a great job after a rough start,” said Greene. “Their kids are really playing hard and playing good football right now.  They seem to be in a similar boat to us in that both teams are young and went through some growing pains early in the season.  We’ve had a nice rivalry with them going back to the days in the Apollo and look forward to this chapter of it.”  

WHAT CHARLESTON SAID: “It’s mixed emotions,” said Payne. “I wish this was week four and not week nine. We might have had a longer season the way we have looked, but ending the season on a four-game win streak would be a great way to end. Salem has played some tough competition. We can’t look past them. Mount Zion probably looked at us and saw two wins and thought they would beat us and that didn’t work out. We need to go down thinking this will be a dogfight if we want to prevail.”