Athens head coach Zac Harrell heads into the District 9-4A, Division I opener knowing everyone is 0-0 to start the district campaign.
Even with a 4-0 start, the Hornets prepare to host the Chapel Hill Bulldogs, who are 3-1 after last week’s 55-14 loss to Center.
Chapel Hill head coach Jeff Riordan’s team averages 42 points per game, while allowing 40.7 points defensively.
“It is a great challenge for our program, and our team to face a quality opponent like Chapel Hill is. They are an extremely talented football team,” Harrell said. “Coach Riordan does a great job and is a great coach so it is a great challenge for us.”
This is the final game of a two-game home stand as the Hornets travel to Henderson next week to continue District 9-4A, Division I play. Kickoff for that game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The game against Chapel Hill is now Senior Night as they recognize 21 players prior to kickoff. The ceremony will start at 7 p.m.
“We want to go ahead and honor these guys,” Harrell said. “We have every intention of playing well beyond this week. With 2020 being the way that it is, we wanted to move Senior Night up to the earliest available game, so that is why we moved it up to this week. This is a special group and they have done a lot for our program and buying into year two of what we have brought here. It is a great group.”
Chapel Hill senior quarterback Cameron Ford is a dual-threat player who has accounted for 892 yards passing and 577 rushing yards with 18 combined touchdowns.
“He is a really good player and one of the best that I have seen,” Harrell said. “He does a great job of running their offense and is the one that makes them go. He is talented and dangerous and provides a good challenge for us.”
Junior running back Kevin Brooks is second on the team in rushing with 30 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns.
“They have multiple running backs in Brooks, J.K. Davis and DJ Williams who are great running backs,” Harrell said. “Those are the guys who will carry the ball for them and are talented ball carriers. We will have to contain them.”
Sophomore wide receiver Illonzo McGregor, junior Solomon Macfoy and Ammorian Ford are the top targets for Ford.
McGregor leads the team with 23 receptions for 391 yards and two touchdowns, Macfoy has 14 receptions for 253 yards and three touchdowns and Ford has nine receptions for 229 yards and three touchdowns.
“They are a spread offense and very similar to us,” Harrell said. “They want to play fast and will take shots down the field. They have a lot of talented football players that they are throwing the ball to and they are very efficient in the run game.”
Defensively, juniors Jatavion Watson and Brack Dyer along with senior Max Richardson lead the team in tackles.
Watson and Dyer both have 45 tackles, while Richardson has 35 tackles. Richardson and Dyer each have six tackles for loss.
In the first four games, the Bulldogs have nine interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
“Defensively, they play a lot of different fronts and they want to try to confuse you offensively,” Harrell said. “They will bring a lot of pressure and play a lot of man-to-man defense. They create opportunities for them to cause turnovers and create chaos. It will be a huge challenge for us and if you can handle it, there are some opportunities out there.”
Harrell said his keys to the game are they have to play sound in all aspects of the game.
“First off, we can’t give up the big play, we have to make some plays against man-to-man defense, we challenged the offensive line to block multiple fronts efficiently, we have to outfight them and we challenged the special team units to win all aspects of the special teams,” Harrell said.
In last week’s 62-21 victory over Wills Point, Harrell said the Hornets played exactly how they needed to in finishing off the non-district schedule.
“It was a good way to finish the first part of the schedule,” Harrell said. “We feel like we improved every week, and the kids have a lot of confidence since we are 4-0. We are ready to move into the second part of our season, which is the district schedule.”
NOTE: The Hornets come in averaging 50 points per game, while allowing 17.3 points defensively. … For more on the game, check out a recap online Saturday and the Sideline Review in the Tuesday printed edition of the Athens Daily Review.