The clock was winding down Friday in the fourth quarter as Parkersburg South began its drive, down three points to Athens at R. Basil Rutter Field.
Parkersburg South had a fourth and one just past the 50-yard line. The Patriots, backed by senior Nick Yoho, had already converted two pivotal fourth down plays on drives earlier, including a 21-yard first down conversion from Yoho off a fake punt. The Bulldogs had been struggling to defend the Patriots on fourth downs all night, and it was showing.
This upcoming fourth-down play, however, was different. It was different because, on the opposite end of this particular fourth down, was a season-defining moment delivered by Athens sophomore Peyton Gail. As the ball was snapped with 3:34 to play, Gail crashed through the Patriot offensive front and met Yoho, bringing him to the ground and giving the Bulldogs possession of the ball on the Patriots’ own 40-yard line. A 10-play, 40-yard drive — capped off by an Evan Adams touchdown — followed, sealing the 26-16 victory for the Bulldogs.
“It’s great to see him do that,” Athens coach Ryan Adams said. “You ask a lot out of a sophomore to play as much as we’re depending on him to play. When he can go out there and execute a play like that, and have that kind of success, it only builds more confidence.”
Gail, who had a breakout game offensively last week when he hauled in 10 catches for 122 yards, recorded four solo tackles in the Athens win.
“I was excited I was able to make a play to help put my team in a spot to win,” Gail said. “It feels amazing. It’s probably one of the greatest feelings I’ve had in a long time.”
Behind Gail was a hungry Bulldog defense that hunted the ball play after play — a noticeable improvement from last week’s game. It had an answer for every challenge that was presented to them, some of which included a powerful Patriot rushing attack and a game filled with many momentum shifts.
“Things could have gone a little bit different when they started getting the momentum again,” coach Adams said. “Our defense really did a good job tonight.”
Justin Hynes led the Bulldogs with six solo tackles and one assisted. Lane Heller added four solo tackles and another assist while Josh Poches assisted on four with two solo finishes.
Braeden Halbert picked up an interception in the first quarter, as the Patriots were driving, to give his team a huge break early on.
Adams, who rushed for 108 yards and four touchdowns, credited the scout team for being the reason Athens had so much success defensively on Friday.
“We had a great scout team look (this week),” Adams said. “They really studied their offense and defense so we had great looks at practice when we’d go on teams.”
Parkersburg South hung around up until the last minute of the game on Friday. But Athens’ resiliency was highlighted by significant defensive stops throughout the night when the time mattered.
On a fourth down and one with 3:34 left in the game, a stop mattered more than anything, and Gail delivered one.