Athens is going to spend a lot of time on the road this weekend.
Friday, the Bulldogs open their season against Gallia Academy, 53 miles from school to school. Saturday, the Bulldogs play Bishop Watterson, 76 miles from The Plains.
Overall, they will travel 258 miles on a bus between two days.
“It’s a haul,” coach Mickey Cozart said. “We’re going to play two good teams.”
Friday, the game will feature 7-footer Zach Loveday, a sophomore who already has three Division I offers, including offers from Big Ten teams: Ohio State and Purdue. He will present a challenge for the Bulldogs.
Last season the Bulldogs had success when they won the rebound battle. Getting rebounds allows the Bulldogs to play in transition, the focus of their offense. Loveday is going to make that hard to reach.
Athens’ big-men include 6-foot-4 Robert Dickelman, 6-foot-2 Justin Hynes and 6-foot-4 Isaiah Butcher. They are going to be challenged in the paint by Loveday.
“You got to put a butt on him,” Cozart said. “You gotta box out. You got to be aware of his presence.”
But even with knowing what they have to do to find success, Loveday will still find a way to affect the game.
“He’s 7-foot. He’s going to block some shots,” Cozart said.
And on Saturday, Athens plays Bishop Watterson. The two teams met last year, with the Bulldogs winning 74-49. Cozart expects a different game this year, as he said Bishop Watterson had a down year, but should be better this year.
“We’re going to be in a battle going up there,” he said. “I expect it to be a dogfight.”
With two tough games back-to-back, Cozart has to be sure that his team is rested. He is going with a lighter practice load in the days prior to the game and hopes to keep his team on a tight schedule over the weekend.
Even with the precautions he is taking to keep his team fresh, Cozart is confident that his team is up for the challenge.
“We’re deep enough that we’re not going to let it affect us,” he said.