Jarred Duff

Athens senior Jarred Duff attempts to fights off Palestine defenders in a 42-6 loss last week at Palestine. Duff finished with four receptions for 41 yards.

With two weeks remaining in the season, Athens coach Zac Harrell knows this week’s match-up is a chance to get better as a team.

The Hornets welcome the Kilgore Bulldogs to Bruce Field for the home finale Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Kilgore comes into the contest at 6-2 overall and 4-0 in District 9-4A, Division I play. They are tied with the Lindale Eagles for first place.

“They are really good,” Harrell said. “Every team in this district is good, and we knew that going in. We knew that in February when they released the districts that it would be one of the toughest in the state. Kilgore is one of the best teams in the district.”

Athens is 4-4 overall and 0-4 in District play with two games remaining. They wrap up the regular season next week at Mabank.

“We have got to play better as a team,” Harrell said. “We have got to be more consistent and that is the bottom line is we have to be consistent doing our job. The other night, there was a lot of things that stood out with us having nine dropped passes. We told the kids you can’t beat good team dropping nine passes.”

In last week’s 42-6 loss to Palestine Wildcats, the Hornets finished with 272 yards of offense and three drives that came away with no points.

“It was a tough game last week and not how we wanted it to be,” Harrell said. “We talked about the game was actually a lot closer than the final score indicated. We got inside the 10 three times with zero points. We were not consistent with executing and to beat good people you have to consistently do your job. That is where we have to get as a team.”

Harrell said Kilgore is a very talented team under coach Mike Wood.

They are led by senior quarterback Dalton McElyea, who has thrown for 1,432 yards with 12 TD’s and five interceptions.

In the run game, they are led by senior Trayveon Epps, who has 1,223 yards and 15 touchdowns in eight games this season.

“They have a lot of talent and they are very multiple on offense. They are very good at the run and the pass, and they are balanced,” Harrell said. “They are about 50-50 in the run and pass, and they can beat you in both areas of the game. They are very good at everything they do, so we are going to have to play complete defense and focus on our keys. We have to defend all areas of their offense.”

Defensively, Harrell said they run out of a 4-2-5 package and are very fast to the football.

They are led by senior Eli Caruthers with 77 tackles, five of them for loss. Senior Brian Brown is seconds in tackles with 59, one sack and three quarterback pressures. He has also recorded an interception this year.

With this being the final home game for the seniors, he said his message to them this week was keep fighting and show the underclassman what Athens football is all about.

“The message to the seniors was that you have invested six years in the program so let’s fight and finish this the right way,” Harrell said. “We still believe that this season has not gone the way we wanted to, but the future of Athens football is very bright. For the juniors, sophomores and freshman it is very important that we keep getting better. There is no practice reps like game reps and we have two more weeks to get better in the game of football before next year.”

He said his keys to ending the four game losing streak are simple.

“We need to do the little things right at your position,” Harrell said. “We need to be consistent at doing our job. We need to not have any turnovers, because turnovers have really cost us in a lot of the games that we haven’t won. We need to finish drives and we want to excel in all areas of the special teams and not have any negative plays.”

Notes: Check out a recap of the game online Saturday and for more on the Athens and Kilgore home finale, check out the Sideline Review in the Tuesday printed edition of the Athens Daily Review.

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