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Athens High School tailback DeVon Sharp runs past Chillocothe defenders Friday, Sept. 16, in Scott Riggs and Family Stadium in The Plains. Athens won, 28-14, continuing their winning streak of 4-0. (Maddie Meyer | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)

High School Football: Bulldogs struggle with fumbles, gain footing for win

It’s not often that a team turns the ball over four times and still wins the turnover battle, but that was the case Friday night as Athens used a dominate rushing attack to defeat Chillicothe 28-14.

Although it was an ugly game for both teams, the Bulldogs (4-0) were able to come back from a 7-6 halftime deficit and wear down the Cavaliers (0-4) in the second half.

Chillicothe suffered from five turnovers and was not able to take advantage of Athens’ miscues. Athens, however, was able to make the most of its opportunities in the second half.  

“I didn’t expect to see the ball turned over that many times. I don’t think any head coach expects to see that,” Athens coach Ryan Adams said.  “But sometimes it does, and what really matters is what you do in the face of that adversity. Our team was able to collect itself, keep its composure, and come back out and execute in the second half.”

DeVon Sharp had a huge night for the Bulldogs, amassing more than 200 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Athens, which rushed for more than 200 yards as a team, dominated Chillicothe in the second half. Sharp rushed for 150 yards after halftime.  

“(Sharp) has got such a great center of gravity and balance and a great burst once he gets out into that open field,” Adams said.

Sharp and the rest of the Bulldogs seemed to get stronger as the game continued.

“We put a lot of emphasis on conditioning with our football team,” Adams said. “Our kids are in pretty good shape, and we like to think that we can wear some teams out. I think that started to show itself in the second half.”

Missed opportunities and turnovers defined Athens’ first half. Quarterback Josh Skinner twice missed wide-open receivers in the end zone and was intercepted two times.

“He was really failing to get his feet set and made a couple of poor decisions,” Adams said.

Skinner recovered in the second half, completing all three of his passes and adding multiple rushes as Athens stuck to the ground game to control the clock.

“I’m going to keep my confidence in him. He’s a senior captain and a competitor. Sometimes he just overthinks a little bit,” Adams said.

The Bulldogs had another strong defensive effort led by Mitch Rider and Chris Russell. Rider had two big hits that helped change the momentum of the game — one at the beginning of the third quarter that set the tone for the second half.

“We’ve got kids that like to play physical football,” Adams said. “Our defense feeds on that kind of activity.”

For the fourth consecutive game, Athens overcame adversity to grind out a win.

“Basically, we walked away from this 4-0, thinking if we can ever play four quarters and execute on both sides of the ball, we’ll be a very dangerous football team,” Adams said. “We’re hoping that’s going to show its head sometime here in the near future.”


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