The Athens Hornets hosted the Bullard Panthers on Friday evening for their non-district finale and last game before the bye week.
Bullard controlled most of the first half but Athens was able to answer when needed and trailed by seven at halftime. They exchanged the lead in the second half before Athens kept the lead for good and forced a big defensive turnover late in the game for the 42-35 victory.
On a drive highlighted by a 22-yard catch by Rowdy Godwin, the Hornets got the scoring underway with a 46-yard touchdown catch by Cam McDonald on a 4th-and-3 as they led 7-0.
The Panthers immediately answered with an 86-yard kickoff return touchdown by Landon Wheeler and they trailed 7-6 after a failed two-point attempt.
Athens was on the move and reached Bullard’s 19-yard line as the first quarter ended. Following a sack on Chase Frederich, Athens lost four yards and on 4th-and-14, his ensuing pass was incomplete and they turned it over on downs.
Bullard wasted no time as four plays later, Tristen Shewmake ran into the end zone for 47 yards and a 13-7 Panther lead.
Athens went three-and-out and Bullard took advantage again as, following a 28-yard run by Shewmake to the Hornet five, Jackson Elliott punched it in for five yards and the Panthers built the lead to 20-7 with 6:20 until halftime.
It only took two plays, but the Hornets quickly answered as Frederich took off for a 28-yard rushing TD and Athens trailed 20-14.
Bullard kept the ball for over four minutes on their next drive and converted two fourth downs, the latter of which was on a 4th-and-13 at the Hornet 26, and Connor Carson caught a 26-yard touchdown as the Panthers led 28-14 after two points with 1:25.
With no timeouts, Athens picked up big plays, such as a 19-yard run from Jerquindon Taylor, and with five seconds until the break, he caught a five-yard TD pass and they trailed 28-21 at halftime.
The Hornets came out and trailed 28-27 on a four-play drive that was highlighted by 47 total yards by Nathan Sims, capped off with his seven-yard rushing touchdown. The extra point missed.
Bullard’s running game continued to thrive on their next drive, as Bryson Luscombe had a 27-yard run to Athens’ 12, and two plays later, Wheeler found the end zone again on a five-yard TD run and the Panthers led 35-27.
In another short drive, following two 15-yard runs by Taylor and Sims, Sims ran in for an 11-yard score and the game was tied at 35-35 with 6:41 in the third quarter with two points added.
Athens was on the move again and had the ball at Bullard’s 36 going into the fourth quarter.
At the ten minute mark, on a 4th-and-7, a fake play ensued and Frederich connected with Sims for a 23-yard touchdown catch and the Hornets led 42-35.
With 3:39 to go in the game, the Hornet defense made a big stop as they forced a Panther turnover on downs at Athens’ 21. They would run out the clock and win a shootout, 42-35.
The Hornets improve to 4-1 and go into their bye week before kicking off their district schedule at the Life-Waxahachie Mustangs on Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m.