The 1997 Salem Wildcats Football Team was one of the most dominant teams in school history, but they were also one of the most entertaining teams to watch as well. They were a team that rushed the ball but also could pass equally as effective. Paired with a strong and sound defense this version of Wildcat football will not be forgotten.

The Head Coach Scott Steward gives much of the credit to an outstanding coaching staff. Brad Detering: Offensive Coordinator, John Boles, Roger Brummett, Jim Koehler, Terry Heern, and Chuck Fairbanks.

The season opened with a heartbreaking loss to Centralia but the Wildcats followed that up with eight consecutive wins. Defeating conference opponents, Red Hill 28-14, Flora 21-8, Fairfield 34-8, Mt. Carmel 20-8 and finally a non-conference win vs. West Frankfort 29-15. The Wildcats qualified for the playoffs, but were defeated by a tough Morton team. Probably the biggest win was defeating Mt. Carmel at home after falling behind early in the game. Huge catches by Tyson Bargh and Pat Lobek were 2 highlights and a strong performance defensively against an excellent Mt. Carmel offense led the Wildcats to victory.

The 1997 team was led on offense by all conference players, Kyle Bowers (QB) whose passing statistics were 81/146, 1363 yards, and 18 touchdowns. Chad Hawley (WR) had 30 receptions for 474 yards and 6 T.D.s. Eric Lux who was a great blocker had 12 receptions for 241 yards, 3 T.D.s and 2 conversions. Up front a strong offense line was led by tackle John Colclasure. Jason Kirstein was a first team all conference kicker.

The defense was led by 4 all conference players. Eric Lux, John Colclasure, Mike Minton, and Pat Lobek, who were known for swarming to the ball, the defense was also known as great hitters who worked together within a sound scheme.

Team Statistics seemed to define the season the most. Four ball carriers rushed for over 450 yards. Mike Minton and Tyson Bargh had 571 yards, while Derick Vincent had 535 and Pat Lobek had 488. As a team the Wildcats rushed for 1993 yards, passed for 1363 yards for 3056 total yards while allowing only 1194 on defense. Coach Steward frequently remarked that the difference was in the 3rd quarter in most games outscoring opponents 96-27 for the season.

Captains for the season were Tony Ferrero, Kyle Bowers, Chad Hawley, Pat Lobek and Eric Lux. For the post season awards Mike Minton was the MVP, Kyle Bowers was offensive player of the year, Eric Lux was the defensive player of the year and Jason Kirstein was Special Team Player of the year.