Hornets victorious at homecoming

Posted by : admin | On : October 5, 2017

IMG_4666 Athens FB #20 CMYK

By Bodey Cooper
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–The Athens Hornets made the most of their homecoming night with a big victory over the visiting Mabank Panthers.
In each team’s first district game of the season, the Hornets defense shut down the Panthers, and the offense didn’t take a break either.
The Hornets’ defense prevented the Panthers from getting a first down on their first two possessions of the first quarter.
After a punt by the Panthers, the Hornets took over on their own 35-yard line.
The Hornets finished off the 65-yard drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Xavius Fulton with 6:53 remaining to give the Hornets a 7-0 lead.
One main area that the Panthers struggled with was punt and kickoff returns, which the Hornets took advantage of late in the first quarter.
With the Hornets punting, the Panthers returner fumbled the ball, allowing junior Quintavian Gardner to make the recovery, giving the Hornets good field position late.
Once again, Fulton made the Panthers pay with a three-yard rushing touchdown with :08 left to give the Hornets a 14-0 lead heading into the second quarter.
The Panthers’ defense took advantage of one of the few mistakes Fulton made with an interception by Marcos Gallegos to give the Panthers possession on their own 34-yard line.
The Panthers tried to put together a late offensive drive, but were unable to progress as the Hornets’ defense stopped them on fourth down and took over on their own 42-yard line.
After a Panthers timeout, Athens wide receiver Jordan Mayhall put together a big 35-yard run to get the Hornets within scoring distance late in the first half.
The Hornets took their timeout late with :13 remaining in the second quarter to discuss strategy on the upcoming play.
The drive was once again finished off by Fulton on a 12-yard rush to give the Hornets a 21-0 lead with :04 left, a lead they would take into halftime.
The Hornets struck just 2:57 into the second half on an eight-yard rushing touchdown by running back Nathan Sims to push the Hornets’ lead to 28-0 over the Panthers.
The Hornets added on late with 3:28 left on a big 42-yard touchdown by Fulton to make it 35-0 Hornets in the third quarter.
The Panthers finally broke through the Hornets’ defense :39 into the fourth quarter on a three-yard rushing touchdown by wide receiver Chaseon Parks. That would be the only points the Hornets would allow as they finished off homecoming night with a 35-7 victory.
Afterwards, Hornets Head Coach Paul Essary discussed how important that first district win was for his team.
“It’s big to get a win at all more than anything,” Essary said. “The first step to the state playoffs is to win that first district game. This is a tough district and it’s an exciting district.”
Essary also said the play of quarterback Xavius Fulton, as well as other members, has been important for this Hornets team, not just against the Panthers, but all year.
“He’s the leader, he’s got to go in there and perform,” said Essary of Fulton. “I thought the offensive line played well and I thought the running backs played well and the receivers blocked exceptionally.”
The defense shut down the Panthers all night, and allowed only seven points while making key plays throughout.
“I thought they played lights out the first half, and even in the second half,” stated Essary. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re up 28 or down 28, you got to come out ready to play. It doesn’t matter what the score is, you have to come out and play ever play as hard as you can.”
Essary said he and the team will celebrate the win, but then it’s right back to work to prepare for their next district contest against Van.
“I’ll let the team enjoy it, and we’ll go over the film and fix some mistakes,” Essary said. “By the time the kids see the film, the coaches and I will have already seen it twice, and we’ll get prepared for our next opponent.”
The loss drops the Panthers to 1-4 overall and 0-1 in district play. The Hornets move to 2-3 overall, but they now are 1-0 to start their district schedule.
The Hornets face the red-hot Van Vandals (5-0) on the road, who come in undefeated with a district win already under their belt.