A week ago, Athens was entrenched in its toughest part of the schedule and struggling to find a way to get out of the fog of its first losing streak of the season.
But after a few days of rest and a triumphant win at home against River Valley last Tuesday, the Bulldogs are now in a spot to catch fire, and possibly first place in the Tri-Valley Conference.
The opportunity is there for the taking Friday night when Athens (8-5, 5-1 TVC) will tip off against Vinton County (13-1, 6-1 TVC), the conference's current first-place team.
The Bulldogs played a smooth game last Tuesday, with senior Griffin Lutz, junior Robert Dickelman and sophomore Justin Hynes registering 46 of the team's 81 points in the easy win.
Coach Mickey Cozart wanted his team to enjoy the victory, but also wanted them to take every step in getting prepared for Friday's tough contest.
"We're going to go hard," said Cozart. "We’re going to watch a lot of film, and we’re going to go down to Vinton County and play as hard as we possibly can, and whatever the outcome is is the outcome.”
Vinton County suffered its first loss of the season a week ago against Alexander, but rebounded strongly with a 100-52 win against Nelsonville-York last Tuesday.
To beat the Vikings, the Bulldogs will have to be at their best defensively for a full four quarters to slow down the high-powered offensive attack.
The Vikings boast one of the best balanced teams in the conference, with the offense currently averaging 77 points per game and the defense allowing 56. The Bulldogs match up defensively, as they average 54 points allowed per game, but not as much offensively, averaging 66 points per game.
If Athens fails to slow down Vinton County's offense, then any level of offensive work Lutz and the rest of the Bulldogs' offense put in won't be enough for a victory, as evidenced by the previous losses to Fairland and Warren, where the offense kept the them in the game, but the defense fell apart during crucial moments.
Friday will serve as another challenging test to see if the Bulldogs are capable of earning a win as an underdog.