Athens Hornets run past Rusk, 28-16

A power running attack and stifling defense lead Athens to win.

By Michael V. Hannigan

That was a punch in the mouth.

The Athens Hornets (2-0) used a power running game and a stifling defense to muscle past Rusk (0-2) Friday night, 28-16.

The Hornets salted away the win with a grinding 13-play, 95-yard scoring drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters and ate 9:38 off the clock. All but 24 yards of the drive came on the ground as Athens pounded the middle of the Rusk defense all game long.

The drive ended when Chase Friedrich hit Dre Thompson with a 20-yard TD pass.

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The rest of Athens’ points came courtesy of Nathan Sims who racked up 179 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns on runs of 20, 18 and 13 yards.

The defense also came to play, holding Rusk to a total of 40 yards in the second half.

The Hornets will look to remain undefeated next week when they travel to Fairfield to take on the Eagles. Fairfield beat Brownsboro, 14-6, Friday night.

Michael’s Notebook

— For the second straight week, the Athens defense completely shut down the opposition in the second half. Even Rusk’s one TD in the third quarter was helped because the Eagles started with the ball on the Athens 22. The Hornets allowed just 40 yards and four first downs in the third and fourth quarters Friday night.

— The Hornets have now put points on the board with two different styles of offense. Against Brownsboro, they scored on big plays with speed. Against Rusk, they pounded the ball between the tackles. It is going to be hard for the opposition to know what to try and take away moving forward.

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— Speaking of pounding the ball, Athens ended up with 256 yards rushing. That doesn’t happen without the offensive line doing a great job and those guys rarely get called out, so big ovation for Garrett Hayes, Hunter Martin, Klayton House, Jacob Whyman, and Blake Forney. They controlled the game Friday night.

— Coach Zac Harrell and his brother Clark (offensive coordinator) sure aren’t afraid to keep the defense on its toes, are they? The Hornets tried a flea flicker, which resulted in a Rusk penalty, and completed a halfback pass. Quarterback Chase Friedrich threw a lateral to Jerquindon Taylor who then threw deep to Jaylnn Gualdarama for a 37-yard gain that set up a touchdown.

— A key series in the game came late in the first half when Rusk had a first and goal from the Hornet 10 and couldn’t score. The big play came on third down when Athens sacked Rusk quarterback Jaylon Hall. The charge was led by Rowdy Godwin with Connor Clay and AJ Hill cleaning things up. Hill was in Hall’s face plenty Friday night.

— For the second straight week the Hornets forced a turnover, this time a fumble recovery by Isaac Middleton.

— Another nice game by quarterback Chase Friedrich who now has two straight games with a TD pass.

— Did you see big Garrett Hayes chase down that punt returner in the second quarter? I knew Hayes was athletic, but catching punt returners one-on-one in the middle of the field isn’t something offensive tackles usually do.

— I saw a lot of white in the stands. Great job with the White Out fans and great job with the shirts Athens Screen Printing.

— Did you notice Athens will be playing the Eagles for the second consecutive week when the Hornets travel to Fairfield next week?

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