The Athens Review
Three consecutive wins to end the regular season and that clinched a playoff spot has given the Athens Hornets a healthy bit of confidence.
That confidence will be tested Friday when the Hornets (5-5) open the playoffs against the Kilgore Bulldogs (8-1) at Whitehouse’s Wildcat Stadium.
The Region II-3A Division I bi-district contest is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m.
The Bulldogs were ranked No. 4 in the state until last week’s 20-14 loss to Gilmer dropped them out of the top 10. On the other side of East Texas, the Hornets were handing rival Brownsboro a 55-20 beating in a “win-and-in” game for both teams.
Athens head coach Paul Essary said his team is still confident, but also aware that it must limit mistakes and maximize effort against the stingy Bulldogs.
“We have to have confidence going in against them,” said Essary, who has led the Hornets to the playoffs in three of his four seasons. “Right now, I feel like our kids feel like they can play with anybody.”
The Bulldogs, like the Hornets, have any number of backs who can hurt a defense. Kilgore’s attack is led by JuJu Brown (511 yards, 8 TDs) and Austin Jordan (625 yards, 4 TDs), while quarterback Cooper Coldiron has nearly reached the 1,000-yard passing mark (959 yards, 8 TDs).
The Hornets, who have rushed for 1,231 yards over the past four games, are led by sophomore Devin Hall, who has 799 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. Senior Raheem Miller isn’t far behind with 600 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and junior quarterback Anthony Sanders has rushed for 553 yards and three scores.
The Hornet offense will have to work hard against a Kilgore defense that hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game this season. The Bulldog “D” threw three shutouts this season and allowed 10 points or less in seven of nine games.