The Athens Review
As their season comes to a temporary resting point, the Athens Hornets are entering some rarefied air.
The Hornets improved to 5-0 by doing what they do best – controlling the tempo and the clock – in a 35-28 win over the Palestine Wildcats Friday night at Bruce Field. The perfect start to the season through five games is a first since 1996, when that team began 6-0. Only one other team — the 1975 Hornets — has matched the feat in the last 78 years.
Now the Hornets get a week's rest before opening District 15-3A play on October 11 at Canton. No other team will enter 15-3A play with an undefeated record.
“It's a great feeling going into an open week with a win,” Essary said. “We're always ready to start preparing for our next opponent, but this is one that we get to enjoy for a little longer.”
The Wildcats (3-2) did everything in their power to stop an Athens celebration from happening – even without the services of leading rusher Ben Luckett, who didn't play. Trailing by 15 points midway through the fourth quarter, Palestine got a 66-yard kickoff return from TCU-commit Jarrell Owens to trim the Athens lead to 35-28 with 8:43 left in the game. Palestine's Kendall Gomez then recovered a perfectly executed onside kick to set the Wildcats up on the Athens 45-yard line moments later. The Athens defense stiffened, however, allowing just one first down on the Wildcats' ensuing drive – which ended when Travon Fuller knocked down a Gee Clark pass deep in Hornet territory on fourth down.
If the Hornets were a little uneasy on that fourth-down play, they had good reason. Both of the Wildcats' first-half scores came on fourth down. Clark scrambled 28 yards for the game's opening score on fourth-and-seven and, with 30 seconds left in the second quarter, he threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Sheldon Watson on fourth-and-11 that tied the game at 14.
The Wildcats, however, never got another shot to create more late-game drama. After the turnover on downs, the Hornets turned to their running game. They covered 65 yards on eight consecutive running plays led by tough blocking from linemen Raul Campa, Jared Bailey, Barrett Senyckyj, Josh West and Juan Guzman and tight ends John Arellano and Logan Allen and went into the victory formation on the Wildcat 5-yard line.
When the final buzzer sounded, Athens sophomore fullback Logan Fuller had almost 200 yards rushing (he finished with 193 on 25 carries) and the Hornets ran for 379 yards as a team. Fuller had one score, fellow sophomore Travon Fuller added two more (in addition to blocking two PATs and catching a 36-yard pass on third-and-25) and junior Devin Hall found the end zone twice, as well.
“Running backs can't run if they don't have a great offensive line in front of them, and we did tonight,” Essary said.
Hall finished with 75 yards on 13 carries and Travon Fuller had 58 yards on six carries. Athens senior quarterback Anthony Sanders, who had a fumble recovery in the first half, carried eight times for 43 yards.
The Wildcats were led in rushing by varsity newcomer Devonte Mims, who ran 15 times for 72 yards. Owens finished with 62 yards on 13 carries.
Athens 35, Palestine 28
Palestine 6 8 6 8 — 28
Athens 7 7 14 7 — 35
P -- Gee Clark 28 run (kick blocked), 5:57
A -- Devin Hall 10 run (David Cedillo kick), 2:43
A -- Travon Fuller 23 run (Cedillo kick), 10:42
P -- Gee Clark 23 pass to Sheldon Watson (Clark to Bennett Gierkey pass), 0:30
A -- Logan Fuller 52 run (Cedillo kick), 8:03
A -- Hall 22 run (Cedillo kick), 5:09
P -- Clark 2 run (kick blocked), 1:28
A -- T. Fuller 13 run (Cedillo kick), 8:48
P -- Jarrell Owens 66 kickoff return (run good), 8:43
First downs 14 23
Rush-yards 39-191 54-379
Passing yards 40 36
C-A-I 5-16-0 1-5-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Punts-avg. 4-35.2 3-33.3
Penalties-yards 5-40 6-32
Rushing — P: Jarrell Owens 13-62; Gee Clark 9-53; Devonte Mims 15-72; Marcus Robinson 2-4. A: Logan
Fuller 25-193; Ladarius Jordan 2-10; Anthony Sanders 8-43; Devin Hall 13-75; Travon Fuller 6-58.
Passing — P: Gee Clark 5-16-0-40. A: Anthony Sanders 1-5-0-36.
Receiving — P: Karl Hamilton 2-6; Sheldon Watson 1-23; C.J. Barrett 1-10; Devonte Mims 1-1. A: Travon Fuller 1-36.