The 1941 Salem football team, North Egypt Conference champions with a 6-0 record, were deemed one of the best teams in the state.

In addition to winning the conference, the first ever outright title for Salem, the Wildcats compiled an 8-1 record, including a 13-12 win over Centralia in a classic “Battle of Marion County” contest. They were also invited to play in the first ever Shriner’s benefit football game, and were the cause of Centralia severing athletic relations with Salem.

Some of this group started the renaissance of Salem football as sophomores on a team that finished 7-1-1, including a 16-0 win over Centralia-the first ever in football for the Wildcats over Centralia. As juniors some of these players tied for the NEC crown with a 5-0-1 mark.

Aided by the addition of many players from the “oil patch,” with the school enrollment burgeoning with the influx of people from Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Louisiana connected with the oil industry, Salem football fortunes continued to grow, with the 1941 team deemed one of the best of all time.

Plagued by one of the wettest falls in Southern Illinois, the season started with a promising 20-0 victory over Lawrenceville, with two touchdowns by future all-stater Bob Scoles and one by Don Wile-both Hall of Fame members. That victory was followed by a 20-0 win over Bridgeport The shutout skein continued with a 7-0 win over Flora, Salem’s chief rival, on a touchdown by Scoles and an extra point conversion by Roy Gatewood in the final two minutes.

Chagrin enveloped the Wildcats in their next outing against Fairfield. Although Salem won handily 46-6, the Mules were the only NEC team to score against Salem. Coach Van Howe, an earlier Hall of Fame inductee, was giving the reserves some playing time, and the subs scored on a touchdown by Bob Roddy and an extra point pass from John Baker and John McDougal.

After several plays, the Wildcat regulars were reinserted into the game. On the first play, a Fairfield substitute halfback scampered 80 yards for the touchdown. In a rainy mud-bath at Mt. Carmel, Salem was back in its shutout vein, blanking Mt Carmel 26-0. Fleet halfback Roger Peterson scored two touchdowns, while Scoles and Wile scored one each.

Then came the heralded clash with Centralia, billed as a battle between Salem’s power and Centralia’s speed. Speed prevailed initially as Dwight Edleman ran the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. But power finally prevailed as Scoles banged in for two touchdowns, the margin of victory being two extra points kicked from placement by Gatewood. Next came the post game action, as Salem fans burned Centralia in effigy. This led Centralia to sever athletic relations with Salem until 1945.

Inclement weather reached its apex for the Olney game as the two clubs slithered and slid in a sea of mud. The victory went to Salem 2-0, on a second quarter safety when Olney, backed against their goal line, was caught either in the end zone or stepping over the back line.

The annual Mt Vernon game, originally set for a Thursday night, was postponed until Armistice Day, due to rain and mud. With Scoles and Dean White injured, Mt Vernon upset Salem 13-7-the only defeat of the year. Salem won the finale, 14-7, over Newton.

While the “Battering Ram,” Bob Scoles, was chosen for all-state honors, Leo Roberts, Kenny Roberts, Scoles and Gatewood were selected for first team ALL-NEC honors. Dean White was selected to the second team as fullback.