Wesleyan's Will Anderson (7)
NORCROSS — Wesleyan couldn't hold a second-half lead in its opener. This time it built on one.
"I think we grew up a lot," Wolves coach Franklin Pridgen said.
That the victory came against a Class AAAAA school with an enrollment about three times larger than the Wolves -- the smallest school in Class AA -- made it even sweeter.
"We're playing a lot of larger school," quarterback Will Anderson said. "We take it as a challenge."
Anderson completed 21 of 27 passes for 285 yards and four touchdowns and also scored on a sneak. But the defense also did its part by shutting out visiting Salem in the second half for a 38-19 victory Friday night.
"Did we find the confidence we were looking for?" Pridgen asked his happy players as they huddled after the win.
The answer was obviously yes.
The Wolves, who have just 13 seniors and eight juniors, were bothered by cramps in the heat a week ago and saw a 9-0 fourth-quarter lead dissolve in a 10-9 loss to Holy Innocents'.
Instead of letting a win slip away, Wesleyan got stronger this time as it built on a two-point halftime advantage over Salem (1-1).
Anderson connected with Sam Carver on a 40-yard TD pass in the third quarter, Rhett Delk kicked a 34-yard field goal midway in the fourth after a fumble recover by Ollis Robinson and Anderson capped the win from a yard out in the closing minute.
Wesleyan (1-1) led 21-19 after a wild first half in which each team scored the first three times it had the ball and combined for nearly 500 yards.
"We made some adjustments at halftime," Pridgen said. "We gave up too many big plays in the first half. We don't see that kind of speed in practice."
Anderson was 11 of 13 for 193 yards and three first-half scores, connecting with Christian Stark for 13 yards, Jahami Jones for 55 yards and Carver for 3 yards. Jones, who also had a 71-yard reception, had 139 yards on three first-half catches.
Salem's Licash Lackey had a 5-yard TD run and caught a 79-yard bomb from Damian Gordon, who also scored on a 24-yard option run.
Salem, which beat Class AAAAAA Rockdale County 28-7 in its opener, drove 88 and 80 yards for its first two scores before the 79-yard quick strike, while Wesleyan went 74, 65 and 96 yards for its first-half TDs.
"Our defense really stepped up in the second half," Anderson said.
Delk, the Wolves' leading tackler at linebacker, filled in with regular kicker Mike Simpson ill and was perfect on his extra points in addition to connecting on his only field goal attempt.
Jones finished with six catches for 154 yards and Carver caught seven for 74 yards. Miles Smith, like Jones a sophomore, rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries.
Wesleyan will play Stone Mountain, a Class AAAA school, next week. As Pridgen told his team after beating Salem, the Pirates will no longer be expecting an easy victory.