Athens steamrolled in-county rival Alexander 50-0 at Holzer Field on Friday night, but coach Ryan Adams felt that his Bulldogs could have played even better.
“To be honest, we couldn’t really get ourselves into any kind of a good rhythm,” Adams said. “We really struggled to find anything to get us rolling.”
Unlike the first three weeks of the season, Athens (3-1, 1-0 Tri-Valley Conference) lacked an offensive identity. There wasn’t a monster game from running back Evan Adams or an unstoppable passing attack. Instead, Athens won its first conference game of the season with a chain of random big plays.
And the biggest play of the game happened less than three minutes into the first quarter.
After an Alexander three-and-out, Athens scored first when lineman Evan Steenrod caught a blocked punt and scurried to the end zone. Steenrod, who’s one of the biggest players on the team, looked like a running back as his trotted down the sideline. He was alone in the end zone for only a moment before being embraced by his teammates.
“A touchdown for a lineman is all we dream for,” Steenrod said. “It was the most out of breath I’ve ever been.”
Athens scored its first offensive touchdown with four minutes left in the first quarter. Quarterback Clay Davis dropped back and found sophomore Joey Moore by himself jogging down the Spartans sideline. Davis hit his man in stride for a 57-yard touchdown.
Alexander couldn’t get any momentum going against the Bulldogs defense; constant penalties and a lack of push on the line of scrimmage made sure the Spartans never crossed midfield in the first half.
While the Spartans struggled to get a first down, Athens would finally pull away in the last two minutes of the half. Evan Adams widened the lead to 21 when on first down he cut left, went right and hurdled over his own blocker before juking out an Alexander defender and scoring a 21-yard touchdown.
One minute later, Athens scored again when Clay Davis scrambled out of pressure and hit a diving Peyton Gail in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown. Athens entered the locker room with a 28-0 lead.
Athens came out for the second half and closed any chances on a miracle comeback. Adams and Davis scored back-to-back touchdowns, widening the lead to 43 and making Spartans' fans' nights even longer.
What on paper looked like an unstoppable night for the Bulldogs was just a string of big plays and smart football. The Bulldogs committed only three penalties and didn’t turn the ball over for the first time this season.
The win gives Athens its first conference win of the season while knocking the Spartans to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the TVC. The Bulldogs, who haven’t won a TVC title since 2014, made a statement Friday night.
Athens will look to build its winning streak when it faces Vinton County at home on Friday.