Athens’ 11-game win streak against Wellston was snapped Friday. The Bulldogs’ hopes of winning out the season were shattered, and the Golden Rockets wasted no time and found plenty of chances to score in their 49-28 win.
“We just couldn’t get out of our own way,” Athens coach Nathan White said. “We weren’t prepared, tonight was 100% coaching. You know, our kids made some mistakes, but I take full responsibility for tonight.”
The first quarter looked promising for Athens as it came in. The Bulldogs got on the board early with a successful first drive that ended with a 10-yard pass from quarterback Landon Wheatley to Marcus Stevers for a touchdown.
After Wellston got a touchdown on the board and another end zone trip from Athens, the game started to go in a different direction. Three consecutive touchdowns from Wellston gave it a 27-14 lead going into halftime.
“(I) felt like we could not have played any worse, and we were lucky to be down 13, honestly,” White said. “I felt like it was still our game to win.”
The second half came with a variety of turnovers that took away Athens’ chances to win. Multiple times when the Bulldogs were about to get a drive that was essential to get back on track, they’d get nothing after committing a turnover. Athens had a total of five turnovers in the game compared to one from Wellston. Many of them could not have come at a worse time.
“Certainly turnovers are never good,” White said. “Tonight it seemed like they kind of hit us right when we were just building some momentum.”
Athens had the opportunity for a comeback late in the fourth quarter when it was only down a couple of scores, but its chances slipped away when it couldn’t get the big drives it needed.
“You never really feel out of it until probably the very end,” White said. “You keep trying to get the ball back and get a quick score, and we were able to do that a little bit. But in the end, it wasn’t quite enough.”
Although Wheatley had some turnovers, he was able to find success with big throws and on the run. Wheatley completed 18-of-30 passes for 305 yards and two touchdowns. He led Athens in the run game with 11 carries, 70 yards and a touchdown on a one-yard run into the end zone. Wheatley also caught an interception from Wellston in the third quarter.
In the end, it was a matter of who was the more prepared team. It wasn’t Athens, but it can still look forward to improving in the last few weeks of the season.
“We have to be better on offense and defense, special teams was horrific tonight. We’ve got to fix that,” White said. “And, you know, we’ll wake up tomorrow morning and turn on the River Valley tape and start all over again.”