They may not have had the most explosive offense or the stingiest defense in the school’s history, but there is one thing the 1965 Salem Wildcats football team knew how to do. Win.

Under the direction of Hall of Fame coach Joe Thomas, the 1965 Wildcats compiled an 8-1 overall record and an outright North Egypt Conference championship.

The ability to win close games was a main trademark of this squad. On four different occasions Salem won games by a touchdown or less. They included a 26-20 win over Bridgeport, a 14-7 win over Flora, a 20-13 Homecoming win over Mt. Carmel and a 20-14 win over Carmi.

The Wildcats survived two other tight struggles that season, which included a 12-0 win over Centralia in the Shriners Game and a 19-7 victory against Olney.

Salem’s other wins that season were a 35-13 win over Fairfield and a 52-18 win romp over Mt. Vernon in the season finale. Had it not been for that explosive output in the finale game, this Salem team would have averaged less than 20 points a game on offense.

The Wildcats hopes for the NEC title appeared to have disappeared in week six when they suffered their lone loss, a 27-13 setback at Lawrenceville. That win temporarily propelled the Indians into the NEC lead.

Yet Salem was able to regain the title in the final week of conference play. Late in the Carmi game with the score tied at 14-14, Wayne Bass intercepted a pass and ran it back to the Bulldogs three-yard line. That set up the winning touchdown run by Dale Donoho. Another interception by the Salem defense, this one by Lynn Donoho, on the ensuing Carmi possession sealed the win.

Salem still needed considerable help to win the title and got two major surprises. The first was Fairfield’s 21-20 win over second place Lawrenceville. The other was Olney’s stunning 14-13 win over NEC co-leader Mt. Carmel. It would be the Wildcats last NEC title until 1985.

One of Salem’s toughest struggles had come earlier in the season in week three at Flora. A 15-yard touchdown run by Kenny Francois in the second half was the winning score in the 14-7 victory. Salem’s defense forced four turnovers in that game.

The Wildcats had eight players receive All-NEC honors. Running back Dale Donoho was a First Team pick who rushed for a league high 996 yards. Donoho also led the NEC in scoring with 84 points thanks to 14 touchdowns. Donoho had five 100-yard games rushing with a season high 184 yards against Mt. Carmel.

Donoho had great blocking up front, as Salem had four offensive linemen earn NEC First Team honors. That list included center David Meador, guard Roger Roethe, tackle Greg Eckles and end Wayne Bass.

Those who received NEC Honorable Mention included quarterback Greg Gruenkemeyer, who threw for 251 yards and ran for 332 more, halfback Kenny Francois and guard Larry Smith.

Francois formed a potent one-two punch in the backfield with Donoho. He was second on the team in rushing with 671 yards and seven touchdowns. That total included a season high 152 yards in the win over Mt. Vernon. Francois also averaged a team high 6.5 yards per carry and was the team’s top receiver with 107 yards.