The Athens Hornets return to action looking to end a two-game losing streak.
The Hornets (4-2 overall and 0-2 in District 9-4A, Division I opener) head to Lindale to battle the Eagles, who are 4-3 overall and lead the district at 3-0.
The Eagles, currently ranked No. 7 in the #bEASTTexas Fabulous 15 football poll by the Tyler Morning Telegraph have defeated Mabank, Chapel Hill and Henderson during a three-game winning streak. They are averaging 32.4 points per game, while allowing 28.6 points defensively. Kickoff for the contest is 7:30 p.m. at Eagle Stadium.
“Lindale is a really good team,” Athens coach Zac Harrell said. “People look at their record and starting off they lost to really good teams. They had a chance to win all of the games and had a chance to beat Gilmer, Van and Pine Tree were very tight games. I don’t know if it is a deal of turning it around, but they have been a good team all season. In district, we told the kids they have made less mistakes and Lindale capitalized on them. They are very well coached, execute at a high level and play hard.”
Harrell spoke highly of Lindale senior quarterback Sam Peterson.
“He is a really good player and he leads them,” Harrell said. “They have run him a lot in district and they graduated a bunch of seniors but he has carried them. He and the receiving core are mostly returning and other than that, they are young. He (Peterson) is carrying the ball at least 12 times in district and it is a called quarterback run, which is something they are relying on this year.”
The receiving core will be led by Jacob Seekford and Evan Alford. Harrell said Athens fans could see those two players come from the backfield or from multiple formations during the game.
“They are big time playmakers and they also throw the tight end Cody Swaim quite a bit too and try to get him matched up on the linebackers,” Harrell said. “They are very balanced and very formational and try to create matchups and are a great football team.”
Harrell said Lindale’s defensive is a unit to definitely watch this week.
“Defensively, they have really play well and their defensive line has a player moved in Colton Widemon to defensive end and once district started is when they moved him there full time,” Harrell said. “It has caused teams problems because their defensive line has been able to cause teams problems and get pressure on the quarterback. The linebacking core and secondary is young with only one returner in Brett Maya.”
Expect to see a lot of Lindale senior Judson Long and sophomore Patrick Daniels at running back in Friday’s contest.
During the open week, Harrell said the Hornets got back to basics.
“Last week, we really tried to work on being physical and competing,” Harrell said. “We went back to some one-on-one tackling drills and proper tackling techniques and the fundamentals of football and playing with energy. We started every practice with some competition with first offense against first defense. The kids responded well and competed at a high level.”
Harrell said the phrase of the week is Sense of Purpose and his keys to victory are once again simple. “We have to be mentally locked in and focused on beating the Lindale Eagles,” Harrell said. “We want to play sound defense and we want to line up right and make them earn it. We have to eliminate self inflicted wounds on offense and we can’t stop ourselves. We have to get after the quarterback and we really want to try and create pressure and get as many maroon helmets to the pile when he runs to it. When you play quarterbacks like this, when you can hit them cleanly the more you get in their heads. “We want to win the turnover battle, since in two district battles all three turnovers have been touchdowns. We need to have a big return on special teams this week.”
NOTE: For the entire interview, check out the Coaches Corner podcast on our social media sites. It can be found on Twitter @athens_sports or on our Facebook page. You can also find out more about the game in the Tuesday printed edition of the Athens Daily Review with the Sideline Review.