The Athens Review
Talk to the folks around Brownsboro, and many will tell you the school’s biggest rival is Van.
Athens head coach Paul Essary isn’t buying that.
“This is the rivalry,” Essary said earlier this week. “This is it, and the kids play like it.”
Right or not, Friday night’s regular-season finale between the Athens Hornets and Brownsboro Bears should bring out the best in both teams. The winner of the game, set for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Bear Stadium, will advance to the playoffs as the third-place team out of District 15-3A.
The loser, as Essary puts it, begins basketball season.
“This is what Texas high school football is all about,” Essary said. “We’re both playing for a playoff spot. What other motivation do you need?”
The Hornets enter the game having won two straight after starting the season 1-6. Last week, they demolished Mineola, 42-13.
The Bears will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak after last week’s 35-13 loss to Canton.
In his first season as Brownsboro’s head coach in 2011, Ty Thomison watched as his Bears finished 1-9 — with that one win being a 32-30 overtime victory over Athens at Bruce Field.
Determined to improve, Thomison has guided the Bears to five wins in 2012 and has them on the cusp of a playoff spot.
It seems like something big has been at stake in the recent meetings between these two teams — of which the Bears have won four of six.
In 2006, Athens needed a win to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Instead, the Bears won, 58-39, clinching the school’s first district title since 1995 and setting up a lengthy playoff run. Athens got revenge in 2007 and made the playoffs after scoring a 34-7 win over the Bears.
The following season, Athens and Brownsboro faced off in a similar “win-and-get-in” game that the Bears won at Bruce Field, 15-9.
This year will mark the Hornets’ first trip back to Bear Stadium since beating Brownsboro, 63-21, in 2010. The Hornets went on to post the best record (11-3) in school history.
Points had been hard to come by for the Hornets until two weeks ago when they scored a season-high 31 in a win over Mabank. Last week, they went a touch better by reaching the 40-point mark for the first time this season against Mineola. Junior quarterback Anthony Sanders shook the Athens passing game to life, as he threw four touchdown passes.
Brownsboro played most of last week’s game without its own standout quarterback, senior Shelby Rogers. While his status for this week’s game is uncertain, Rogers’ body of work this season has been impressive. He’s thrown for 1,818 yards with 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His favorite targets are wide receivers Davonte Givens (34 catches, 814 yards, 7 TDs) and Tyler Thomison (25 catches, 518 yards, 8 TDs).
For the Hornets to win, they’ll likely have to run the ball effectively. Devin Hall, a sophomore, leads Athens with 641 yards and nine scores. Athens has run for 805 yards over the past three games.