Hunter White

Athens lineman Hunter White (in white) looks to continue his strong play this week against the Chapel Hill Bulldogs.

It is a battle of the undefeated teams Friday to start District 9-4A, Division I play.

The Hornets head to Chapel Hill to face the Bulldogs in a battle of 4-0 teams looking for momentum to start the second season.

Kickoff for the heavyweight fight is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Chapel Hill.

“We are going to find out on Friday night because Chapel Hill is going to challenge us,” third-year coach Zac Harrell said. “They are very talented and very well coached. Coach (Jeff) Riordan has done a good job everywhere he has been. He has won everywhere he has been so it is going to be a great challenge for us to open up with them and prove that we belong in this fight.”

The Hornets will face a talented junior signal caller in Tyler Jones. He is currently 51 of 70 for 1,125 yards with 12 touchdowns to three interceptions. Jones also leads the team in rushing with 25 carries for 204 yards and one TD.

When asked about how talented Jones is, Harrell is impressed.

“He is a good one,” Harrell said. “He is different than the kid they had last year, who is very talented. Tyler wants to extend the play and kind of turn it into backyard football. If his initial read or throw isn’t there, he will scramble left and right and let his receivers work and get open. He has extended the play at least 10 seconds and that presents a great challenge for us. We have to make sure that our secondary covers for a long time.”

When it comes to the receivers, Harrell highlighted Ilonzo McGregor, junior Ahstin Watkins and Tyson Berry.

“The receiving core is really all back from last year,” Harrell said. “They are all very talented and Berry is a junior and very talented. They like to get Watkins soloed up and like to throw to him so they don’t have any weaknesses. They have a very talented right tackle as well.”

Defensively, Harrell said new defensive coordinator Craig McFarlin has changed the team to an even front on defense.

“In the past they would be more multiple and get in different fronts,” Harrell said. “They would get in odd fronts and even fronts. This year, they are an even front and will stay in that four down front and make put one backer in the box. Sometimes, they will have two and this is a good test for us.”

Harrell said the keys for the week are based on believing in each other.

“We have to believe that we can win this game,” Harrell said. “We have to truly believe in ourselves and our teammates, we have to contain the quarterback, we want to run the ball offensively, we want to win the turnover battle and we want to send a message early with our physicality.”

Athens faces another tough test next week as they host the Henderson Lions at Bruce Field. Kickoff for the District 9-4A, Division I contest is set for 7:30 p.m.

“It is going to be a fight every week in this district and every team is capable of beating every team on the schedule,” Harrell said. “There is no bad teams and only very talented, well coached, hard nosed football teams in this district.”

NOTE: Don’t forget to check out the Sideline Review in the Tuesday printed edition of the Athens Daily Review with a breakdown of offensive and defensive leaders and my Players of the Game.

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