With a potential season-finale showdown with the Brownsboro Bears dangling over their heads, the Athens Hornets knew they couldn’t overlook the Mineola Yellowjackets.
So they leveled their sights and ran right through them.
The Hornets dismantled the Yellowjackets, 42-13, Friday night at Bruce Field to set up a huge game against the Bears next week. The Bears’ 35-13 loss to Canton left Athens and Brownsboro tied at 2-2 in District 15-3A with one game left in the regular season.
That means the winner of next week’s game in Brownsboro will advance to the Class 3A playoffs. The loser will pack it in.
To even be in position to make next week’s game significant, the Hornets (3-6 overall) needed to win two straight games after a 1-6 start. Athens defeated Mabank last week, 31-7.
“It’s all going to be on the line next week,” said Athens head coach Paul Essary, who has led the Hornets to the playoffs in two of his three seasons. “Anybody in the state of Texas would like to be going into the last game and at least have a chance to make the playoffs. What else can you ask for?
“The playoffs begin next week for Athens and Brownsboro.”
Though many Brownsboro fans consider Van the school’s main rival, the matchup against Athens gets fans in both towns plenty hopped up — and all the more so when a playoff spot is on the line. Last year, the Bears traveled to Bruce Field winless and handed the 5-2 Hornets a 32-30 overtime loss that sent Athens into a downward spiral that ended with no playoff berth.
The Hornets came out swinging against the Yellowjackets to keep any kind of similar letdown out of sight.
Adam Stallings — who carried an increased workload with starting back Devin Hall out of the lineup — bulled his way into the end zone from two yards out to put Athens up 7-0 after its first drive. The drive began at the Mineola 21 after the Yellowjackets’ first punt went only nine yards.
Anthony Sanders then put the Hornets ahead 14-0 with the first of his four touchdown passes — all of which came in the first half. He hit Raheem Miller with a 61-yard bomb with 3:46 left in the first quarter, then found Kody Ingham streaking to the post from 28 yards away to push the lead to 21-0 at the 8:34 mark of the second quarter. He entered the game having thrown four touchdown passes all season.
Mineola quarterback Tyler Hudson broke loose on a 31-yard option keeper to trim the Hornet lead to 21-6 with 3:53 left in the first half, but the Yellowjackets couldn’t outrun their mistakes — which came fast and furious as the clocked ticked toward halftime.
Athens linebacker K.J. Cumby intercepted Hudson near midfield with 1:28 to go in the second quarter, and Sanders threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Chris Jefferson on the next play to give his team a 29-6 lead. Dac Shaw — who has committed to play linebacker next season at Texas Christian University — then fumbled on the first play of Mineola’s next drive, and Sanders and Jefferson connected again from four yards out to make it 36-6.
Daniel Salazar capped the scoring for Athens with a two-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Athens 42, Mineola 13
Mineola 0 6 0 7 — 13
Athens 14 22 0 6 — 42
A – Adam Stallings 2 run (Jesse Durham kick), 9:06
A – Raheem Miller 61 pass from Anthony Sanders (Durham kick), 3:46
A – Kody Ingham 28 pass from Sanders (Durham kick), 8:34
M – Tyler Hudson 31 run (kick blocked), 3:53
A – Chris Jefferson 27 pass from Sanders (Stallings run), 1:22
A – Jefferson 4 pass from Sanders (Durham kick), 0:16
A – Daniel Salazar 2 run (kick blocked), 5:10
M – Devon Foster 1 run (Sam McNeil kick), 0:00
First downs 14 17
Rush-yards 39-173 39-172
Passing yards 83 132
C-A-I 8-18-1 5-9-0
Fumbles-lost 4-2 1-0
Punts-avg. 4-32.2 3-39.6
Penalties-yards 11-101 5-43
Rushing — M: Juan Vargas 4-1; Devon Foster 9-23; Tyler Hudson 9-66; Dac Shaw 15-97; James Dean 1-(-3); team 1-(-11). A: Adam Stallings 15-64; Daniel Salazar 6-11; Raheem Miller 9-50; Anthony Sanders 7-35; Kody Ingham 2-12.
Passing — M: Blake Whitney 1-3-0-8; Tyler Hudson 7-15-1-75. A: Anthony Sanders 5-9-0-132.
Receiving — M: Harry Elhallaoui 6-76; Devon Foster 1-(-2); Juan Vargas 1-9. A: Raheem Miller 1-61; Kody Ingham 1-28; Chris Jefferson 2-31; Travon Fuller 1-12.