CANTON — The troubles started from the opening kickoff, which was fumbled, and the Hartland football team struggled from then on out in a 38-25 loss to Salem on Friday.
Salem (1-1) got a field goal off that turnover, but the Rocks put the game away with a pair of long touchdowns in the third quarter after taking a 24-13 halftime lead.
Every time the Eagles got close, the Rocks came up with a counter, and Hartland went into the holiday weekend with an 0-2 mark.
As a result, the Eagles were playing catch-up football, which proved to be too much.
“Especially (against) a team that gets first downs and keeps the ball,” Hartland coach Brian Savage said. “You can’t spot them (points) and expect to win many games.”
Salem dominated at the line of scrimmage, racking up 314 yards rushing to Hartland’s 33.
But the Eagles kept nipping at Salem’s heels. Brad Ekonen, who scored Hartland’s first touchdown on a 24-yard touchdown, threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Most of the yards and both touchdowns came in the second half.
Still, the Rocks always had an answer. After Ekonen’s touchdown made it 10-7 in the second quarter, Salem scored late in the period, only to see Jack Slavin take the kickoff and run 87 yards for a touchdown.
“I was wide open,” Slavin said. “There was a giant hole right there, and I took off running. I didn’t even get touched, so there was great blocking on our receiving team’s part.”
The return cut the Salem lead to four, 17-13, and it was the last time the Eagles were that close.
Salem quarterback Ryan Young (146 yards on 14 carries) scored on the next drive to make it 24-13 at halftime, and the Rocks effectively put the game out of reach on a 70-yard score by Andrew Davis (139 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns) early in the third period.
Hartland never could get its rushing game on track.
“They kept seven in the box and did a nice job negating our run,” Savage said. “But we did some things, some drops here and there and some three-and-outs and not moving the ball. But I think they came a little harder off the ball.”
Young put the game out of reach later in the quarter with a 77-yard run, his second touchdown of the game.
Ekonen found Evan Metz for a pair of scores, one late in the third quarter and the other early in the fourth, but the Rocks stiffened on defense after that.
“They were playing a little softer (on defense),” Savage said. “We got the ball to some other people, but they made adjustments. They were the better team tonight.”
Metz finished with eight catches for 84 yards, while Reece Potter had seven grabs for 77 yards.
The Eagles play their home opener next week against a Canton team that also is off to a slow start.
“They’re in the same boat we are,” Slavin said. “I mean, they’ve lost two tough games. They’re still, I think, a top 10 team in the state, and they’ll be ready to go.”
“I would hope,” Savage said, “there would be two upset teams, and we’ll have a good game next Friday.”