Athens (3-7, 3-3 TVC-Ohio) hosted Nelsonville-York (7-3, 6-0 TVC-Ohio) in its final regular season game at Joe Burrow Stadium Friday night. The Bulldogs weren’t able to spoil the Buckeyes perfect conference record and lost 41-6.
“You’re always excited to play this game,” coach Nathan White said. “It’s a rivalry going on and you know, certainly they have a better record than us, and we kind of were excited to come in here and try to get jacked up and battle.”
The excitement didn’t last long for Athens. On its first drive, quarterback Landon Wheatley was intercepted and Nelsonville-York ran it back for a touchdown. Athens tried to respond, but two more turnovers before halftime hindered its efforts.
“Unfortunately, right out of the gate we didn’t really start the right way,” White said. “It kind of felt like we were battling back from halfway through the first quarter.”
A big problem for Athens was its inability to create plays on the offensive side of the ball. Two of its three turnovers came in just the first quarter, and both resulted in scoring drives for Nelsonville-York.
But the problems weren’t contained to offense. The Bulldogs struggled to record key stops against the Buckeyes run game. Five of the Buckeyes’ scoring drives ended with rushing touchdowns.
“Their offensive line is obviously their strength,” White said. “We knew we weren’t gonna get much pass, they haven’t done it much.”
Nelsonville-York gained 318 yards on the ground Friday. Athens, on the other hand, had just 49 rushing yards. Despite passing for 126 yards, Athens scored just once off of a pass from Braeden Young in the third quarter. The Buckeyes completed just one pass on Friday, but all of its gains were from running the ball. Drew Carter led the rush for the Buckeyes with 11 carries for 129 yards.
Athens ended its season on an all too familiar note. It hasn’t defeated Nelsonville-York since 2018, and it finished its season with a losing record for the second season in a row. For the first time since 2019, Athens will not participate in a playoff game.
Moving forward, it’s hard to look farther or predict what next season will bring because of the importance of tonight’s game, especially for the seniors.
White was disappointed with the loss, but his focus was on the Bulldogs. In the post-game huddle, the coach took time to ensure his players, especially the seniors, took in their final moments on the field this season.
“Right now all you think about is this being the last time that this team is together,” White said. “You really try to enjoy that last talk with the group on your last Friday night.”
White values each player on his roster. He wants each class of players to value their time playing for Athens. Despite the season ending on a poor note, White wants his players to remember their time fondly.
“Every group is just so important,” White said. “You just hope that they loved their four years as much as we love coaching.”