Nathan Sims running

Athens senior running back Nathan Sims gets hit by Henderson’s Tobaius Jackson in a 29-0 loss Friday in Henderson. He finished with five carries for 13 yards before leaving with an injury.

The Athens Hornets were shutout for the first time this season by the Henderson Lions, 29-0, in Henderson Friday night.

They were also dealt with the injury bug once again as they head into the open week this week. Following Friday’s game, the Hornets had at least six players with some sort of injury.

Athens (4-2, 0-2 in District 9-4A, Division I) is open Friday. They return to action Oct. 16 as they host the Lindale Eagles. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Bruce Field.

“We need to be a better football team,” Athens coach Zac Harrell said. “We have to be closer as a group, and that is what I tried to tell them after the game. When you lose and you are faced with a little adversity, there will be a lot of outside chatter said you need to do this or that. We got to come together and keep trusting each other and trusting those in the locker room.”

Here is the Sideline Review from Friday’s contest between the Hornets and the Lions.

– DEALING WITH LONG DRIVES: In the nine drives by the Lions, the Hornets defense had three of them go for more than 10 plays. The opening drive was the biggest for the Lions as they went 18 plays for 55 yards, but did not score. The Hornets forced them to punt with 3:21 remaining in the opening quarter. Athens had just five plays in the opening 12 minutes of play.

“The biggest thing is we can’t go three-and-out,” Harrell said. “We had two three-and-outs to start the game, and we can’t do that. Our defense played well most of the night, and we had a hard time moving the ball. We just got to get better.”

– OFFENSIVE STRUGGLE: In the loss to Henderson, the Athens offense finished with 195 yards with 114 yards passing and 81 yards rushing. Senior Nathan Sims had five carries for 13 yards before going down with an injury in the second quarter. He did not return to the game as well as Ty Arroyo, who finished 3 of 7 for 66 yards and an interception. He had two carries for eight yards.

“It was a tough night. We didn’t have many things go our way,” Harrell said. “We had some more pretty big injuries. That is what I tried to tell them is that’s life and things don’t always go our way. They haven’t in the past two weeks, so how are we going to respond says a lot about us. I know our guys will respond in a positive manner and we got to keep fighting. We got to control what we can control, and we can’t control injuries.”

– DEFENSIVE STANDOUTS: Even in a 29-0 loss, the Athens defense fought hard throughout the night as Andrew Horn had 13 tackles, Connor Clay had 12 tackles and three quarterback pressures and Derek Killingsworth had 10 tackles, one quarterback pressure and one pass breakup. Another standout performance came from Manuel Blancas. The Hornets also had a big fourth down stop in the first half that ended an 11-play drive and forced a punt on the next Henderson drive.

– WELCOME DAVID CLETO: It was good to see senior David Cleto return to action this week after an early season injury forced him to miss some games, he finished with two tackles in his return to play for the Hornets.

– IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: The Hornets know it will be a fit to the finish if they want to try to make the Class 4A playoffs with four weeks left. Harrell said they spent last week focusing on being mentally tough during the district schedule. They now have two weeks before returning to the field to get ready for the Lindale Eagles.

“More than anything, with the youth of our team we have challenged our guys to be a little more mentally tough,” Harrell said. “What that means is every game from here on out is going to be similar to last Friday night. It is going to be a battle and we won’t have anymore games beating teams by 40. We got to handle adversity well and those things have big outcomes in the games.”

NOTE: For a look back on the first six games of the season with coach Harrell, check out the Thursday printed edition of the Athens Daily Review.

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