Jayson Larson/Special to the Review
The Athens Review
Last week the Athens Hornets became the first team to clinch a playoff spot in District 15-3A. This week they can make sure they finish on the top of the standings.
The Hornets (8-0, 3-0) will take their undefeated record on the road Friday night to face the Mineola Yellowjackets (4-4, 1-2) in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Meredith Memorial Yellowjacket Stadium. Athens head coach Paul Essary says a victory will clinch the district championship.
“We’ve had some good practices this week, and the kids want to finish strong and continue to get better,” Essary said. “Mineola’s the most important game on the schedule right now.”
Mineola is coming off a 49-35 loss to the Canton Eagles, who racked up more than 500 yards of offense — including 440 through the air. While Canton put the ball in the air 23 times, Mineola likely won’t see the same from the Hornets, who have attempted only 53 passes all season.
Eight of those attempts came during last week’s playoff-clinching 56-14 win over the Mabank Panthers. The Hornets simply haven’t been in a situation where they’ve had to throw the ball much this season, although Essary acknowledges a time will come when they will. Even so, 448 of the team’s 501 offensive snaps have resulted in a running play (Mineola, for the record, runs the ball about 80 percent of the time).
Essary says the Yellowjackets will be gearing up to stop that potent attack, as he expects Mineola to line up nine to 10 defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage. That means the offensive line and the Hornets’ stable of running backs, along with quarterback Anthony Sanders, will have their work cut out for them.
One of those backs, sophomore Logan Fuller, has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season (1,133) and finds himself 160 yards from Kenneth Sessions’ 1976 record for most rushing yards in a season (1,293). Fuller ran for 183 yards last week, marking his sixth straight game of 100 or more yards. He’s passed the 100-yard mark in seven of eight games. Fuller is also taking aim at a second school record for most touchdowns in a season. He enters play Friday night with 17, chasing the 24 total touchdowns scored by Kendall Sanders in 2010.
Junior Devin Hall has also had a solid season to date with 844 yards and nine touchdowns. He needs 156 yards to become the second Hornet back to pass the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
“When you have running backs gaining those kinds of yards, the offensive line is doing its job,” Essary said. “Those stats are a direct compliment to the offensive line.”
The 2013 season is beginning to have the feel of the 2010 season, in terms of the number of records that are falling. Three years ago, the Hornets set school records for most points scored, most playoff wins in a single season and most wins in a single season, among others. This year’s team has already set the record for consecutive victories to start a season, and it is two weeks away from recording the first undefeated regular season in school history.
Essary said he has talked to his players about the accomplishments of the 2010 team, which advanced to a Class 3A regional final game, but notes that this year’s team can write its own history.
Said Essary: “We can do something the 2010 team never did.”
But first, Mineola.