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Athens High School’s wide receiver Luke Brandes (27) dodges Alexander High School.

Athens Football: Luke Brandes excels playing on both offense and defense

Luke Brandes is Athens’ jack of all trades. 

The junior is one of a handful of utility players for the Bulldogs. Due to a roster of just 46 players, Brandes and several of the other Bulldogs have to take on multiple positions on both sides of the ball during games. For some high schools, this isn’t the norm. Athens coach Nathan White has said the team has players who can’t be off the field, and he knows the most success is found when they’re in the game. 

Brandes is one of those players who White needs on the field. 

Brandes has dabbled in a bit of everything. He’s appeared on defense, special teams and even spent time as quarterback early this season. Although he’s adapted to it well, Brandes admitted the task can be draining. 

“Any person that plays both sides of the ball will tell you playing offense and defense is a little tiring sometimes,” Brandes said. “But you get used to it after a couple of games.”

Playing all over the field makes it hard for some players to pick which position they prefer and have the best handle on. Despite enjoying his various roles on offense, Brandes feels most comfortable when he can stick to being a linebacker.

“I’m probably naturally more comfortable with defense because I haven’t been able to run the ball in a while but, getting back into it, stuff is starting to come back,” Brandes said. “Probably defense (is my favorite), but I am getting there and all offensively.”

What’s more is that Brandes can run the ball, and he runs it better than the rest of his teammates. He leads the Bulldogs with 235 rushing yards and is responsible for all six of Athens’ rushing touchdowns. No other player has more than 85 rushing yards this season.

Brandes credits his success to playing on both sides of the ball. The experience helps him visualize what the linebackers might do in certain situations. Sitting through film sessions doesn’t hurt, either.

“Watching both sides and kind of putting yourself in that position as a defensive player and getting your reads as a linebacker,” Brandes said. “You get what the linebackers are supposed to do so that can sometimes help you as far as running the ball.”

He’s prepared to change roles on the fly. It’s not an uncommon sight to see him run in a touchdown and then kick the extra point right after. It can be jarring to players not used to playing multiple positions, but Brandes doesn’t mind. In fact, he believes it helps him focus.

“The adrenaline actually helps because ... you just went on the whole drive,” Brandes said. “It doesn’t really bug me too much.”

The Bulldogs have just five games remaining in the regular season and have only won one game. Brandes wants to end the season with a winning record. He sees progression from the Bulldogs as a whole and believes they have a shot to finish on a high note.

With a utility player like Brandes, those hopes aren’t unfounded.

“As a team, we’re gonna keep progressing because we have been progressing,” Brandes said. “So, I just kind of count on that.”


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