Athens traveled to play at Vinton County Friday night for its second conference matchup in a row. Unlike last week, the end result was not in the Bulldogs’ favor, and they lost 50-21.
It was a tough ending to a good start for Athens (1-4), as it simply got outplayed on both sides of the ball by Vinton County, and it struggled to put things in place.
A 90-yard kick return touchdown from Marcus Stevers opened the game for Athens and gave it an exciting start. Things looked promising as it responded whenever Vinton County fought back in the first half.
A 21-18 lead for the Bulldogs at halftime made it important for them to acknowledge what they needed to do moving forward in the game.
“I wanted to make sure that our kids understood that, ‘you know we were ahead and come out and battle and continue to make those big plays,‘” coach Nathan White said.
Although Athens was in the lead at halftime, it didn’t always seem like it was the better team despite the score on the board.
“It was a strange game,” White said. “Even when we were ahead, it felt like they kind of had control of the game still just by their solid running.”
Vinton County’s run game was a huge factor in its success against Athens. Athens ended with minus-one rushing yards on 22 attempts. The Vikings ended completely opposite with 496 rushing yards on 59 attempts and crushed the Bulldogs on the offensive side of the ball.
“They were really good offensively up front,” White said. “They won the line of scrimmage on that side of the ball and it made it kind of hard for us to get in any rhythm offensively.”
The Bulldogs were outscored 32-0 in the second half and weren’t able to make any plays happen.
“We had a tough time protecting the passer,” White said. “We’ve just felt like we were behind the chains all night kind of battling and unable to run a lot of what we had coming in.”
Quarterback Landon Wheatley only completed 14-of-24 passes for 178 yards on the night. Most of his success came at the beginning of the game and from there on the Vikings defense was able to stop him from anything he tried to create.
The Bulldogs will have to move forward from this loss and make improvements as a team on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve got to continue to play with great effort and toughness and be physical,” White said.
It is essential for the Bulldogs to work on stopping the run on defense and create more opportunities to score in their next game. Athens will travel to play at Logan next Friday, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.