Nathan White stayed on the field after the post-game huddle in the freezing cold. He went around to embrace his players, particularly the seniors who had just played in their last game.
The looks on their faces were filled with emotion, having just lost 35-28 to Nelsonville-York (7-3, 5-1 TVC-Ohio) in the final game of the 2019 season. Athens finished the season with a 5-5 record and went 5-1 in the TVC-Ohio.
Though the Bulldogs managed to clinch a share of the TVC-Ohio crown last week, it was hard to swallow the losing result of such a hard-fought game.
“Tonight was one of those nights where we felt like we could never really get in the groove,” White said. “Unfortunately it happens on senior night and leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouths. I guess we’re TVC champs but it sure doesn’t feel like it right now.”
There were many incomplete passes and several penalties taken by the Bulldogs. In fact, through the entire game, there were only 16 completed passes between both teams.
In the grander scheme of things, these missed opportunities greatly impacted the outcome of the game.
“That was a big part of the game. That’s what I told my kids, that it’s just the way this game is sometimes,” White said. “You could have a great week of practice and come in with a great attitude, and sometimes things don’t happen the way they were supposed to.”
Though the Buckeyes took advantage of these missed opportunities and were up 28-7 early in the third quarter, the Bulldogs continued to fight back. Two touchdown runs by Joey Moore in the fourth quarter made the score 35-28 and gave Athens a glimpse of hope, but an interception on the goal line with 38 seconds left sealed the victory for Nelsonville-York.
“We came in with the intention to run the ball,” White said. “We couldn’t get out of our own way in the first half. We didn’t play very well. We tried to battle back. Offensively, we played better in the second half, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Of course, the loss was particularly rough for the seniors. Wide receiver Nate Trainer was one of many Bulldogs players who were filled with emotion. He gave White a long embrace after the game, having realized his high school career had ended.
“It’s tough man. I’ve been playing this sport for a long time,” Trainer said. “It’s been a special season. I love everyone I’ve played with, I love all the coaches. It’s just tough.”
It was a special night for 11 seniors who were honored before the game. They are a special group, who went 29-12 over their four years at Athens High School.
“It’s different in week 10,” White said. “The thing about week 10 is that losing to a team is never fun, but this is also the time the seniors realize they’re done. We talked more about that as a team than we did about the game.”