The 1991 Salem Wildcats football team turned in one of the best seasons in school history with a stifling defense that shut out four opponents and limited three others to only one touchdown.

The North Egypt Conference co-champions compiled a 9-2 record, a victory total topped only by the 1985 team’s 10-1 mark, and at the time of its inductions was one of only three Salem football teams to have won a playoff game.

Coach Scott Steward’s team kicked off its season with a 35-21 win over Centralia in the annual Shriners Game, as running back Brad Mabrey rushed for a school record 354 yards and had touchdown runs of 48, 6 and 57 yards.

Mabrey ran for 154 yards and scored three more touchdowns on runs of one, three and seven yards and the Salem defense recovered two fumbles, as the Wildcats opened NEC play with a 28-0 win at Red Hill.

Salem’s defense posted its second straight shutout in a 35-0 triumph against Flora in week three, as quarterback Jeff Hopkins ran for two TDs and threw for two more to go along with 185 yards passing.

The Wildcats survived a tough battle in week four when they slipped past Fairfield 16-8, as Hopkins threw a 33-yard TD to Justin Carter and a 24-yard TD to Brian Hill to go along with Ed Mann’s 33-yard field goal.

Salem suffered its lone regular season blemish in week five and fell out of sole possession of first place in the NEC. The Golden Aces ran for a 76-yard TD the first play from scrimmage, converted four Salem turnovers into TDs and ran out to a 34-0 halftime lead and held on for a 34-20 victory despite 278 yards of total offense  from Hopkins and 104 yard receiving by Tony Evischi.

One week after being down 34-0 at halftime, Salem led 34-0 at halftime in week six en route to a 47-0 win over Lawrenceville thanks to a pair of TDs from Hill, Evischi and Chad Donoho and another TD from Hopkins.

The Wildcats also built a 34-0 lead by halftime and cruised to a 34-6 win over Onley in week seven, as Hopkins threw for 201 yards and two TDs and ran for another TD from 49 yards out.

Salem needed a win over a 2-5 Carmi squad in week eight to clinch a share of the NEC crown with Mt. Carmel and the stubborn Bulldogs put up quite a fight. The game was tied 7-7 late in the third quarter before a 13-yard TD run by Scott Falletta, who rushed for 113 yards, put the Wildcats ahead for good. A 16-yard run by Hopkins late in the fourth quarter secured the 21-7 win that wrapped up a share of the league title and a 6-1 NEC record.

The Wildcats concluded the regular season with an impressive 24-0 win over a DuQuoin squad that ranked No. 8 in Class 3A. Hopkins threw TDs of 22 and 24 yards to Evischi, Falletta rushed for 102 yards and Mann kicked a 30-yard field goal in the 24-0 victory.

Salem drew a first-round postseason matchup home game against Highland in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs. The Bulldogs owned the first half and a 10-0 lead, but three second half TDs by Mabrey on runs of 4, 8 and 15 yards rallied the Wildcats to a 20­10 win and their first playoff victory since 1987.

Salem traveled to Jerseyville in round two. Snow had fallen on the field earlier in the week and melted shortly before the game and left the field a muddy quagmire. After having averaged 28 points going into the contest, Salem’s offense could never find its footing against the tough Panthers defense. Jerseyville got a 20-yard TD on a halfback option pass late in the first half and a 45-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter that gave the Panthers a 14-0 victory.

Ten Wildcats earned NEC honors. First Teams picks included Steve Garrett at guard, Falletta at tackle, Evischi at wide receiver and Hopkins at quarterback on offense and Joe Owens at lineman, Falletta at linebacker and Carter at defensive back on Defense. Evischi was chosen as return speciaist. Second Team honors went to Hill at running back and Doug Jourdan at defensive end. Special mention went to Mabrey at running back and Shawn Morris at linebacker, who had their seasons reduced by injury.