Athens Academy football rolled to its fourth consecutive victory last week.
The Spartans traveled to Hebron Christian Academy and secured a 45-13 win over the Lions, improving their record to 4-1. While doing so, the Spartans defense smothered Hebron Christian most of the night.
Spartans head coach Josh Alexander credited the dominant win to detailed work by the coaching staff and defensive players during the practices leading into the game.
“They're a very talented football team,” Alexander said about Hebron Christian. “Our kids and coaches just worked hard on it. They put a lot of time in during the last two weeks. It was not easy stopping them. It was a scheme that I had never played before, so it was a lot of fun playing the scheme.”
Hebron Christian averaged 264.5 yards rushing per game before playing the Spartans. The Lions ran for nearly 7 yards per carry in their first four games. That rushing success yielded a 3-1 record prior to last week’s contest.
Against Athens Academy, however, the Lions only recorded 136 yards rushing on 32 attempts, an average of 4.1 yards per carry.
Johnerio Holt, who plays defensive line and offensive line, said the Spartans watched ample footage of Hebron’s previous games, which got the defense prepared for the rushing attack.
“Film is a major thing for us,” Holt said. “We have a lot of freedoms at Athens Academy. We have time to sit down, watch film, evaluate and sit down and look at the things that are happening. I think film is a major part of what helped push our defense over the limit [against Hebron].”
Holt recovered a pair of fumbles against the Lions. Jimmy Humphries led the defense with six assisted tackles, followed by Sam Johnson with four and Taylor Muir with three.
Tristan Puckett recorded a sack and Wally Terrell had a tackle for loss.
Athens Academy’s offense complemented its defense throughout the game.
After the Spartans forced a punt on Hebron’s first possession, starting quarterback Sam Bush scored a rushing touchdown at the 7:05 mark of the first quarter to go ahead 7-0.
The Lions tied the game on their next possession, aided by a couple of costly penalties against Athens Academy. Then, Spartans running back Tre Hawkins ran in for a touchdown to make it 14-7.
Sophomore quarterback Whit Muschamp later checked into the game. It marked Muschamp’s first appearance for the Spartans after transferring in over the summer and then suffering a broken collarbone.
Muschamp took his first snap, threw behind him to his left to Bush who had lined up at receiver, and then Bush delivered a 67-yard strike to Pratt Ferguson for the Spartans’ third score with 7:44 left in the second quarter.
Gio Newsome recovered a muffed punt to extend one of the Spartans’ drives later on. Bush scored a couple of plays into that possession, making it a 28-7 game 42 seconds before halftime.
Bush tossed a long touchdown throw to Asa Drudge on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, improving the Spartans’ lead to 35-7 with 11:42 left in the period.
Muschamp later threw the first touchdown of his Athens Academy career on a short throw to K.J. Whitehead. That made it 42-7 with 10:33 remaining in the third quarter.
Spartans kicker Jake Williams kicked a field goal to give the Spartans their 45 points with 2:14 in the third. Hebron Christian scored its second touchdown less than a minute later and a blocked PAT brought the score to its final mark of 45-13.
“Honestly, we just played hard,” Bush said. “They have some great players, so we knew it was gonna be tough. We came out fast and played hard.”
Bush went 3-for-4 with 113 yards passing and two touchdowns. He ran 11 times for a team-high 64 yards rushing and two scores.
Hawkins notched nine carries for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Ferguson made just one catch but finished with a team-best 67 yards receiving and one touchdown. Drudge had 38 yards and a touchdown on one reception. Whitehead caught four passes for 29 yards and a score.
After coming onto the field mid-game, Muschamp went 8-for-9 with 43 yards passing and a touchdown.
Muschamp said the team’s early rushing success created better passing opportunities later on.
“At first, it was probably the run game with Sam,” Muschamp said. “It started with that. When I got in there, it made it really easy for the passing lanes to open up.”
Athens Academy opened the season with a 59-7 loss to Trinity Christian, which entered the season favored to win the Class A-Private championship and currently stands at 5-0.
Since that loss, the Spartans have won four games in a row and none of them were close.
Holt said the team adjusted following the week-one defeat by quickly moving on and focusing with each new opponent.
“We've just got to put what happened in the past and continue to look forward,” Holt said. “We can't allow ourselves to get held up on one thing. We always look at the week at hand and attack the day.”
Athens Academy hosts Wesleyan (3-2) this Friday.
“This is a very talented Wesleyan group, very well-coached,” Alexander said. “They were in the semis last year and we're excited to play them. ... It's our homecoming week and our kids are excited to play. We'll just keep trying to get better. Each week, we trying to find something to get better at and they're working hard at it.”