DACULA—Winning 30 straight football games requires a little something different every week. Sometimes, it takes an explosive passing attack. Some days it could be the defense that carries the burden. Other days, a powerful rushing attack can grind opponents into submission on the scoreboard.
For Athens Academy’s football Spartans, it’s been all of that all season long. On Friday night, they used it all. The Spartans tied down the Region 8A Private title for the third straight season on Friday night with their 50-21 victory over Hebron Christian Academy.
The Spartans’ offense leaned heavily on its rushing attack. Senior Kurt Knisely ran for 240 yards on 30 carries, scoring four touchdowns. Kale Anderson carried four times for 48 yards. The Spartans finished the night with 313 total rushing yards.
The passing game wasn’t too shabby either. Junior Palmer Bush was 5-for-6 for 90 yards and two touchdowns.
The Spartans’ defense held the Hebron Christian offense, which is led by Division I prospect Colten Gauthier, to 244 total yards. The only real negative came as the Spartans’ starters allowed their first touchdowns of the season on Friday night, but their three interceptions helped them grab control of the game in the second half. Seniors Knisely, Anderson and Trey Willis all snagged interceptions off Gauthier.
The win for the Spartans caps another dominant run to their third straight region title. In the process of reaching the three-peat, the Spartans have won 30-straight regular season football games.
Athens Academy head coach Josh Alexander credits the community for the support as well as his player’s commitment to doing things the right way every day of the year and not just during the season.
“We have a great community and a great school,” Alexander said. “Our kids love each other. Anytime you’ve got a team that loves each other, loves their coaches and loves their school, magical things happen. That’s what’s fun about this group. They put their toes on the line every single time and go to work.”
Over the three-year regular-season winning streak the Spartans have seen many big games and big moments. Knisely has been on the field in all of those crunch situations the last three seasons.
Despite the long list of experiences that come from winning consistently, Knisely admits he still gets nervous prior to big games like Friday night.
He doesn’t consider it a bad thing. In fact, it may be one of the reasons that the Spartans don’t fear the moment. They enter the game with the appropriate pressure on themselves and they set out to attack it. The Spartans are a close team and fighting their nervousness together makes them a confident team when they run through their banner each week, no matter who awaits on the other side.
“Personally, I get nervous every game no matter who we’re playing,” Knisely said. “Sometimes that’s a good thing. It means you’re ready. Our companionship is what drives us to win. The love that we have for each other is what really gets us these wins as well as the fight that we have for each other and not just ourselves.”
The Spartans find themselves at the mouth of another opportunity to chase the Class A Private state championship after being beaten two years in a row in the final by Eagles Landing Christian.
The Region championship will be soaked in and enjoyed momentarily as the Spartans earned a bye in the first round of the state playoffs, but their real goals still lie ahead.
“We’ll enjoy this tonight,” Alexander said. “We’ll see where we are in the bracket and go to work after that.”