Athens coach Nathan White paced back and forth down the sideline in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. With his arms crossed and his eyes surveying the field, White continued to call out plays to his offense, only to have them disrupted by the Parkersburg South defense.
With 24 seconds left, Athens quarterback Joey Moore went through his reads, stepped up in the pocket and heaved a pass to Reece Wallace for a 47-yard touchdown. Moore ran back to the sideline, high-fiving his teammates in an effort to bring life to an already deflated team.
Moore and the Bulldogs (0-3) knew it was too late. Parkersburg (3-0) took a knee on the next possession and solidified a 42-20 win.
“Honestly I’m pretty short on words right now,” White said. “It was tough to talk to the kids after the game. We’ve got to do a little soul search, and luckily this 0-3 stretch leads us into league play which is easy to get ready for.”
From the first quarter, Athens looked as if it would be giving Parkersburg trouble throughout the night.
The Bulldogs put together a solid opening drive which lead to a four-yard connection from Moore to Nate Trainer to put Athens on top. This, however, was the last time Athens saw the end zone until the fourth quarter.
The Patriots answered right back on offense, and it took Devin Gaines just four plays to find the end zone and tie the game.
The Bulldogs never recovered. Moore fumbled inside the red zone on third-and-12, and the Patriots took the lead for good after quarterback Brandon Penn heaved a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jake Hogsett.
By halftime, Parkersburg had full control with a 28-7 lead.
Parkersburg’s combination of Penn and Devin Gaines proved to be too much for the Athens defense. Gaines bounced off Athens defenders for 82 yards and two touchdowns.
Penn had a game high 116 passing yards, but did more damage to the Bulldogs on the ground, finishing with 196 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
“He’s got a really strong arm, but with his feet, he’s special — he looked different than everyone else out there tonight,” White said.
The Patriots defense kept Moore scrambling out of the pocket for most of the game, and he finished with 20 rushing attempts for 56 rushing yards. The quarterback had little protection from his offensive line, and that read to misread throws, two fumbles and three sacks. Moore finished the night with 269 passing yards and three touchdowns, but his performance was overshadowed by the Bulldogs mistakes on both sides of the ball.
“We competed really well and we stuck together,” senior Nate Trainer said. “We just got outplayed.”
An 0-3 start to the season may not what the Bulldogs hoped for, but they remain optimistic as they enter conference play next week on the road against Alexander.