Athens returned home Friday night to face conference rival Meigs. Strong performances on offense and key takeaways defensively led the Bulldogs to a 49-35 victory.
Athens got off to a hot start defensively as Meigs’s quarterback was intercepted on the first play from scrimmage. The Bulldogs couldn’t take advantage of this early turnover as they failed to convert on fourth down to give the ball back to Meigs.
Both offenses sped up as the Marauders scored on their next possession. Athens then kept up with a touchdown of its own, but a missed extra point gave Meigs a 7-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Meigs’s pass-heavy offense is something Athens hasn’t had to deal with in recent games, but coach Nathan White felt as though it was up to the task.
“I think when we play a team that throws a little bit, we, our defense, probably gets a better look in practice, because that’s what we do,” White said. “The one thing we can’t match is (Meigs’s) quarterback, he’s a great player. Anytime you’re playing against a kid that good, no matter how good you think your scheme is, you’re always a little bit nervous.”
Athens took a 28-14 lead into the half after quarterback Landon Wheatley led the offense to a strong drive in the last seconds of the second quarter.
“(Wheatley)‘s becoming more and more of a leader for us,” White said. “Up until this year, he has always been kind of the best athlete we put at quarterback. It’s easy for me to see he’s truly getting better every day. It’s really fun. It’s exciting to think about him being only a junior and getting him back next year.”
Strong defense and a kickoff fumble by Athens brought Meigs back into the game in the second half as it tied the game at 28. The Bulldogs weren’t shaken though, as they quickly retook the lead on a touchdown catch by Derrick Welsh. Athens led 35-28 going into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs’ ability to play complementary football helped grow their lead to 14 on a Luke Brandes touchdown run. A key fourth down stop by Athens set up another Brandes touchdown run shortly after that sealed the deal for an Athens victory.
“Our kids played their guts out,” White said. “We are really beat up right now with injuries and quarantines. I can’t tell you how proud I am. We had so many kids that played tonight that haven’t played on Friday night yet.”
The Bulldogs were the aggressor against the Marauders tonight. The toughness by Athens on both sides of the ball was a key factor in the win.