Defense was the trademark of the 1939 Salem Wildcats football team.

Out of the nine games Salem played that season, the defense posted shutouts in seven of them.

Salem blanked Pinckneyville in the season opener 42-0. The Wildcats followed with shutout victories against Albion 12-0, Fairfield 13-0, Mt. Carmel 13-0, Centralia 16-0, and Bridgeport 34-0.

The Wildcats also shut out Flora that season, but the game ended in a 0-0 tie.

That tie wound up costing Salem the North Egypt Conference championship that season, as the Wildcats finished the league season 3-0-1. They were one-half game behind Lawrenceville. However, Salem did not play the Indians that season. In those days the NEC did not always play a round robin schedule like it does now.

The only teams which were able to score against stingy defense were Mt. Vernon and Johnston City.

The Wildcats suffered their only loss that season at the hands of Mt. Vernon 19-0. Salem allowed just a single touchdown in the 19-7 win over Johnston city.

In all the seven wins Salem posted that season tied the 1926 team for most school wins in a season up to that point. The Wildcats win over Centralia was its first in 15 tries. Bill Finks and Howard Jenkins both scored touchdowns on that momentous day.

Third-year coach Van Howe’s crew was rather small that year, especially by today’s standard. Salem’s starting lineup averaged only 170 pounds per man.

More often than not the lineup went like this: Jack Morgan at left end, Clarence Moore at left tackle, Leon Bourell at left guard, Louie Donoho at center, George Seifert at right guard, Carl Gatewood at right tackle, Daryl Robb at right end, Bob Scoles at quarterback, Bill Finks at fullback, Babe Jenkins at left halfback and Herman Howard at right halfback.