Fincher chases down a sack

Athens linebacker Austin Fincher (33) puts pressure on Nolan quarterback Michael Smith during the Hornets’ 34-28 loss last Friday night at Bruce Field. The Hornets, who got sacks from Fincher and Michael Thompson, must find a way to put even more pressure on Spring Hill quarterback Dylan Brown this week.

Bill Poe knows a thing or two about tossing the old pigskin around the yard.

As the coordinator of Southlake Carroll’s high-powered offense the previous three seasons, the Dragons threw for more than 3,000 yards twice and 2,700 yards once.

Through one week of the 2010 season, it looks like Poe brought that passing fancy with him to Spring Hill.

In his head coaching debut last week at Spring Hill, Poe’s quarterback, Dylan Brown, threw the ball 38 times and finished the game with a whopping 308 yards passing in a 44-27 loss to Lindale.

For Poe, it was just like old times.

Spring Hill is no Southlake Carroll, true. But if one week is any indication, the Panthers won’t be afraid to throw the ball around this season.

That should get the attention of the Hornets, who travel to Spring Hill Friday night to face the Panthers.

When the Hornets kept pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season, they were tough to pass on.

When they didn’t, it was like an air raid. Ask Chapel Hill, which passed for 278 yards and four touchdowns during last season’s non-district finale.

Eight starters return from that defense.

Athens Head Coach Paul Essary said he feels like Spring Hill would have liked to have been balanced in its offensive attack last week, but getting behind left the Panthers throwing the ball about 60 percent of the time.

“This is not a team like we played last week,” Essary said. “Nolan is a smash-mouth, line-it-up-and-run-it-right-at-you kind of team. Spring Hill is a spread team, and they’re going to throw the ball.”

Fort Worth Nolan threw the ball only about half as often (20 times) as Spring Hill last week. But the Vikings were effective, completing 14 of 20 passes for 181 yards. None of those throws went for touchdowns, but several went for big gains on scoring drives.

Once the Hornets finally started getting pressure on Viking quarterback Michael Smith, it was a different game. Nolan went to more of a running game in the second half and scored only once more, on a third-quarter touchdown.

That’s one less than Athens junior Kendall Sanders scored on his own in the half. Sanders had a breakout game last Friday, scoring three touchdowns — each in impressive fashion. His 50-yard run was the most pedestrian of the three. His over-the-shoulder 78-yard catch and the leaping, spinning, diving 45-yarder with two minutes left in the game, well, they were nothing short of spectacular.

Essary said the Hornets’ other deep receiving threat, senior Courtney Whitehead, was the focus of a Nolan defense intent on not letting him beat it. Whitehead, who caught 55 passes last season, finished with two catches for five yards.

With Whitehead locked down, that meant more looks in Sanders’ direction.

That’s something Essary can live with, and he said he knows defenses won’t be able to key on Whitehead all season.

“I think Nolan came in and tried to take Courtney out of our gameplan, and they did a good job,” Essary said. “But that’s what is so great about having two outstanding athletes like that to put out there.”

Whichever Hornet gets his hands on the ball won’t matter if Athens doesn’t do a better job hanging on to the football. The Hornets lost three fumbles in the first half and also turned the ball over on an interception.

“You’re not going to beat a poor team with that many turnovers,” Essary said, “much less a good one.”


Kendall Sanders         6-87-1

Cameron Darty    3-10-0

Justin Hofstetter    1-8-0

Nick Monmouth    1-6-0

Courtney Whitehead    1-(-4)-0

Tevin Watson    12-(-2)-0

Mat O’Brien    1-(-1)-0


Kendall Sanders    3-129-2

Cameron Darty    1-33-1

Courtney Whitehead    2-5-0


Tevin Watson    6-12-167-3-1


Kendall Sanders    18

Cameron Darty    6

Zabdiel Mota    4


Team statistics for the Athens Hornets:

    AHS    OPPS.

First Downs    8    18

Rushing Yards    25-104    42-138

Passing Yards    167    181

Total Yards    271    319

Turnovers    4    2

Penalties/Yards    3/30    8/70

Scoring    28    34


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