The Athens Review
WILLS POINT — The Athens Hornets will walk away from their first scrimmage Friday evening against the Wills Point Tigers knowing one thing for sure — they've got a handful of guys who can run.
A bruising and varied running attack was on full display in an impressive showing that saw Athens' first-team outscore Wills Point's first unit, 3-1. Athens' second-team unit added another score.
Athens, a 4-7 bi-district finalist a year ago, handed the ball to a variety of backs, and each one found success. Sophomore Logan Fuller and senior Adam Stallings gave head coach Paul Essary tough yards up the middle, while juniors Devin Hall and Ladarius Jordan and sophomore Travon Fuller found plenty of room to run outside. Logan Fuller scored a pair of touchdowns and Hall and Travon Fuller found the end zone one time each. Nikell Roberts scored on a short run with the second-team on the field.
The Hornet defense, which, like the offense, has nine returning starters from a year ago, was plenty stingy. The defensive unit gave up just two big plays — both coming on runs of about 70 yards, with the last one ending up in the end zone. Linebacker Tim Tanner had a nice scrimmage with an interception off a tipped ball by SMU commit Chris Jefferson, a fumble recovery and a sack. Jefferson made two nice stops behind the line of scrimmage and fellow senior Nic Fincher also recovered a fumble.
"I was pleased with our effort, our enthusiasm, our intensity and our overall execution," Athens head coach Paul Essary said. "We had a couple of breakdowns, especially on defense, but that's my fault as a coach. We got hurt a couple of times on a play that we haven't prepared for yet, but we made adjustments and it never hurt us again."
Cutting down on penalties will be something the Hornets continue to work on as the season progresses. Athens was flagged seven times in the scrimmage, including penalties that wiped out runs of 45 and 20 yards by Hall.
The Hornets seemed to turn the energy level up a notch when the scrimmage finished with one timed quarter. Athens opened the quarter with a seven-play, 70-yard drive capped by Hall's 19-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Anthony Sanders, a three-year starter at the position, found Jefferson wide open in the end zone on a two-point conversion pass.
The Hornets created another score after Wills Point fumbled the ball away on the fifth play of its first series. Sanders connected with Travon Fuller for an 11-yard pass, then the lefty found Jefferson for 13. Three running plays landed the Hornets in the end zone, with Logan Fuller crossing the goal line from a yard out. David Cedillo's PAT put the Hornets ahead 15-0 in the timed quarter.
Athens finished the timed quarter with 175 yards of offense, including 146 on the ground. Logan Fuller had seven carries for 57 yards and Ladarius Jordan had five carries for 55 yards to lead the rushing attack during the quarter.