Offense-loving football fans got their fill last Friday in Monroe.
The Athens Academy Spartans played at George Walton Academy with the 2-seed from Region 8-A-Private on the line. The result was an explosion of points and a 56-31 victory for the Spartans.
Athens Academy has worn out opposing defenses – and scoreboards – all year.
Last week’s game marked the fourth time the Spartans surpassed 50 points this season. Their head coach, Josh Alexander, said the team’s success is due to the offensive players committing to the coaches’ system.
“We have a lot of kids playing hard,” Alexander said. “Our offensive line's doing a great job blocking and Palmer Bush, our quarterback, is doing a great job distributing the ball. We're trying to be as balanced as we can be and our guys are meeting us halfway.”
“Balanced” is an apt word to describe the performance against George Walton.
For the second week in a row, Tre Hawkins gashed the defense to the tune of around 185 yards in the first half. Hawkins missed the second half due to a nagging injury but his affect on the game had already been made.
Bush got things going in the passing game, too, which prevented Athens Academy from being one-dimensional.
Deion Colzie, the team’s star receiver who made big contributions against George Walton after being limited the last few games due to a foot injury, said the versatility of the offense starts up front.
“I've got to give credit to the o-line,” Colzie said. “Without them, we wouldn't be able to do anything. ... They do the dirty work and don't get the praise for it, but I really praise them for it. ... We can run the ball anytime we want to, we can throw the ball deep, throw the ball short. We really just have a very elusive offense and it's pretty hard to stop.”
The Spartans surrendered a touchdown on the first drive of the game. They tied the game thanks to two lengthy catches by Colzie, runs by Hawkins and a scoring run by Charlie Chisolm.
Bush picked off a pass on the Bulldogs’ ensuing possession. He threw a touchdown to Colzie after taking possession.
The teams then traded long scoring runs, first one by George Walton to tie the game at 14 then by Hawkins on a 63-yard dash to regain the lead.
George Walton returned the kickoff for a touchdown to keep the game knotted, this time at 21 apiece. Bush found Colzie on a 15-yard jump ball on the end zone to push Athens Academy back out front, 28-21.
All of those 49 combined points were scored in just the first quarter
Athens Academy recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which set up a 34-yard score by Hawkins. George Walton later kicked a field goal to make it a 35-24 game with 6:02 left in the second quarter. Five minutes later, Bush scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 42-24, a score that held through halftime.
Gio Newsome ripped off a long run later in the third to set up a 1-yard rushing touchdown for Bush, which made it a 49-24 game.
Newsome scored on a 1-yard run to give Athens Academy its 56 points with 7:51 to play. The Bulldogs scored their final touchdown with 4:44 left.
Colzie’s two-touchdown night was a long time coming for the four-star receiver, whose injury status held him back before Friday.
“It felt amazing, just getting back out there with the guys and playing my full game,” Colzie said. “I felt really good out there. It was just awesome to come back out, get a good win with the boys and just know that I helped the team.”
For all the good that Colzie, Bush and the rest of the offense accomplished, the defense had its moments of difficulty.
The game was the second-straight sluggish start for Athens Academy’s defenders. They were slow to get ramped up the week before in a 54-20 win over Athens Christian.
“Defensively, we just need to get a little stronger,” said Colzie, who also plays defense. “We need to communicate a little better and just be one unit. Right now, we're all kind of separated a little bit but I feel like we're going to get out there [this] week in practice and get it all together for the playoffs and we'll be set.”
The playoffs are the next stage for Athens Academy.
The Spartans’ regular season ended last week. Their record is 8-1 and they are guaranteed to host at least the first round.
Before the playoffs begin next week, Alexander said he wants his team to rest up and get healthy. Bush agreed, and he said that the players enter the postseason with their 41-7 loss to Prince Avenue Christian – a result that ultimately decided the region champion – in the back of their minds.
“We need to get some guys healthy,” Bush said. “Tre is banged up a little bit but I think that one game that we didn't play our best football, we learned from that. We're ready now.”