Athens entered the 2018 season with three major goals: win its conference title, make the playoffs and defeat rival Nelsonville-York.
On Friday night at Boston Field, Athens accomplished its trio of goals when the Bulldogs beat the Buckeyes 49-14.
“We didn’t even think about losing,” Athens running back Evan Adams said. “This game was for all the marbles.”
With the win, Athens secured its first outright Tri-Valley Conference Ohio title since 2014 – the same year the Bulldogs last beat Nelsonville-York.
While the Doc Krone Trophy lived in Nelsonville four-straight years, the Bulldogs (9-1, 6-0 TVC-Ohio) were favored to reverse history. They entered the game with a share of the TVC-Ohio title and a perfect conference record. Looking to improve to 6-0 in league play, they secured sole possession of the league championship with the win.
The misty rain, which came down the entire game, made passing difficult for both teams, so Athens looked to Adams to carry the offense.
He finished with 27 carries for 234 yards and four touchdowns.
“He’s been hyped all week for this game,” said coach Ryan Adams. “He ran the ball extremely hard tonight.”
Athens scored first after recovering a botched snap that sailed over Keegan Wilburn’s head, deep in Nelsonville-York territory, which Athens turned into points. On fourth and goal, Clay Davis barreled his way through a sea of orange defenders for a 1-yard touchdown.
The Buckeyes responded. Wilburn orchestrated a 10-play, 74-yard drive that ended in his 2-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs reclaimed the lead when Adams spun out of the arms of a Nelsonville-York defender and ran for 40 yards. On the next play, he finished what he started when he trudged into the end zone from 3 yards out.
After an ineffective offensive drive, Athens defense showed its ability to score. Defensive tackle Justin Hynes tipped Nelsonville-York quarterback Mikey Seel’s pass to himself and took it 12 yards for the third Athens touchdown.
“He came up to me after the game and asked me how the hell I did it,” Hynes said. “We were talking back in forth the whole time, it’s all love.”
The Bulldogs then dominated Nelsonville-York the rest of the half. Their defense forced another interception – it recorded three in total — and finished the game with five forced turnovers.
After failing twice to score in the red zone – a turnover on downs and a failed fake field goal – the Bulldogs went into halftime ahead 21-7.
They recovered another fumble, which allowed them to widen their lead with a 5-yard touchdown run from Adams.
Without Wilburn (who exited the game after injuring his right foot) or ball security, Nelsonville-York’s comeback chances were non-existent. Evan Adams continued to run over the Buckeye defense while Nelsonville-York fans were forced to watch their streak and playoff hopes wither away.
“I definitely thought I got into a groove,” Evan Adams said. “It felt good to get all those yards.”
With the win, Athens is in the state playoffs — a fitting end to a regular season that was clouded with doubts about the postseason. In winning the TVC and eight straight games, the Bulldogs are heading into the postseason.
“I’m just tickled to death that these group of kids get to go experience it,” Ryan Adams said. “It is something that’s truly special, but the best part is for me, and I think the staff, is the fact that we get to spend another week with them.”