After throwing a 57-yard touchdown pass to Levi Neal, Landon Wheatley lined up on defense for the Bulldogs in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Meigs backup quarterback Kolten Thomas took the snap and looked across the field for an open receiver. Thomas fired a pass down the right sideline but didn’t see Wheatley, who snatched the ball for an interception and waltzed 48 yards into the end zone.
Wheatley’s pick-six marked Athens’ eighth touchdown of the night in a 60-24 blowout victory for the Bulldogs over the Marauders at R. Basil Rutter Field Friday night.
After Athens’ (3-4, 3-0 Tri-Valley Conference) crushing defeat against non-conference rival Logan last week, the Bulldogs were looking to keep it simple and do the fundamental things that got them their undefeated start to conference play. The Bulldogs did just that with a fast tempo on offense against Meigs (1-6, 0-4 TVC).
The Bulldogs’ offense flourished with an effective running game and used its speed from the opening drive of the game, scoring in just 52 seconds on four plays. The drive ended in a 32-yard touchdown run from Corbin Stalder.
“We were running the ball great tonight,” Stalder said. “Everyone thinks we just pass a lot, but we can run the ball, too, and we just really got that going for us tonight.”
It didn’t take long for Joey Moore to produce for the Bulldogs, either. On Athens’ ensuing drive, Moore kept the ball on an option play and dashed into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown run. The quarterback played only three quarters, but he still tallied 173 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
“It allows you to be little bit more basic if you go faster because the defense has less time to adjust,” coach Nathan White said.
And Meigs never adjusted from the Bulldogs’ fast attack.
The Marauders were already trailing by 30 before their first touchdown of the game, coming with 7:26 left in the first half. After a two-yard touchdown run by Corbin Stalder, Meigs needed just one play to get on the board — a 64-yard touchdown reception by Abe Lundy from sophomore quarterback Coulter Cleland.
Cleland finished with 240 passing yards and added three touchdowns to his stat-line, but Athens’ defensive proved to be too much through four quarters. A 36-6 halftime lead left the game out of reach for Cleland and the Marauders.
After a two-game suspension, Athens saw the return of senior defensive lineman Isaiah Butcher, who played alongside a solid defensive line and secondary that seemed to have corrected mistakes from the previous weeks with bad tackling and too many penalties. The Bulldogs’ ability to limit those mistakes — along with forcing turnovers — played a vital role in keeping the Marauders out of the end zone for most of the night.
The Bulldogs remain undefeated in the TVC and played well despite the absence of their leading receiver Nate Trainer, who was out with a hip injury.
“Nothing’s in our head right now, but we’re 3-0 and have a game against a really good team next Friday,” White said.
That team is Wellston (6-1, 3-0), who sits atop of the TVC. Beating Wellston on the road will be the biggest challenge of the season for Athens, and a loss to the Rockets would likely end any hopes of a conference title.