Connor Clay

Athens senior Connor Clay (30) looks to take down Chapel Hill’s Deejae Williams in a 37-25 loss Friday at Bruce Field. Clay had 11 tackles in his Senior Night contest.

The Athens Hornets are looking to bounce back after a tough 37-25 loss to Chapel Hill last week.

With a road trip to the Henderson Lions on the horizon, coach Zac Harrell said his team is ready for the challenge.

“Henderson is one of the best programs in this area and the state of Texas really,” Harrell said. “Coach (Phil) Castles has done a tremendous job over there, and they have a lot of talented athletes and present a great challenge for us.”

The Hornets (4-1, 0-1 in District 9-4A, Division I) are open next week. They return to action Oct. 16 against the Lindale Eagles. Kickoff at Bruce Field is set for 7:30 p.m.

Henderson (1-2 overall) lost to the Greenville Lions, 34-18 Friday. The game this week is the district opener for the Lions under coach Phil Castles.

In the latest edition of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine, the Lions are picked to finish third in District 9-4A play.

They have been hit with the COVID-19 virus, and are a couple of games behind the rest of the district.

The Lions come in as a 21-point favorites according to the latest Harris Ratings Poll.

Castles’ team comes in with 31 lettermen lost and only one starter on offense and three on defense returning. Running back D’Cameron Walker is a player to watch after rushing for 550 yards and nine TD’s one year ago.

Harrell said they are about 60-40 in regards to run and pass option. He highlighted Walker, Ya’Corus Porter, Dallas Alexander and Tobaius Jackson at receiver and safety.

“They are very multiple and will do anything that you can possibly do,” Harrell said. “They will throw a ton of different looks at you, and a lot of guys play both sides of the ball. They are a very young team and don’t have many guys that played varsity football up until this year. On offense, they will operate out of the spread, but run a ton of formations at you. They are very multiple with their formations.”

Defensively, linebacker Dalton Modisette and defensive lineman Devin Fields are players to watch for the Lions.

“Defensively, they will run every front that you can possibly run,” Harrell said. “They will play every coverage and are very diverse in what they will run so we have to execute our plan and identify what they are trying to do.”

Harrell said he wants to see how the Hornets handle adversity heading into the open week next week.

“More than anything, with the youth of our team we have challenged our guys to be a little more mentally tough,” Harrell said. “What that means is every game from here on out is going to be similar to last Friday night. It is going to be a battle and we won’t have anymore games beating teams by 40. We got to handle adversity well and those things have big outcomes in the games.”

In his keys to victory for the week, Harrell said they have to get off the field on third and long situations and do their job on all sides of the football.

“We got to play championship defense this week, we have to be able to block multiple fronts, we have to make the routine play on both sides of the ball and we have to respond positively when things don’t go your/our way,” Harrell said. “We also challenged the special teams to win all aspects of the coverage teams.”

In last week’s 37-25 loss, the Hornets had 455 total yards, while allowing 468 to Chapel Hill. The Bulldogs had 387 yards rushing, while Athens had 266. Nathan Sims led the way for Athens with 220 yards rushing and 95 yards receiving.

“It was an incredibly close game,” Harrell said. “Both teams had a chance to win the game as it was a five-point game with three minutes left. It was anybody’s game throughout and the big thing that swung it was the series of plays in the mid-to-late second quarter. We were playing from behind the rest of the night. I was proud of our guys for fighting and how they competed.”

For a look back on the game, check out a recap online Saturday and the Sideline Review in the Tuesday printed edition of the Athens Daily Review.

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