Tre Hawkins could not be contained last Friday night.
The sophomore running back paced Athens Academy to a 54-20 victory over Athens Christian in historic fashion: He set a new program record for single-game rushing yardage with 285 yards rushing.
Hawkins said after the game that he enters each contest hoping to have a great performance. After doing so against Athens Christian, Hawkins credited his offensive linemen for the record-setting production.
“It was the o-line,” Hawkins said. “They were opening up holes left and right. I have to give it to them.”
In addition to the gaudy rushing total, Hawkins scored five rushing touchdowns during the game.
His first was a 12-yard scamper to push Athens Academy (7-1, 2-1 Region 8-A-Private) ahead 14-7 late in the first quarter. The next one was a 65-yard streak to make it a 21-7 game a couple of minutes later.
Hawkins piled on three more scores in the second half to help the Spartans pull away.
“He's a hell of a football player,” Spartans senior quarterback Palmer Bush said. “He can run, man. He's fast. I think he has a lot of good football in front of him.”
Perhaps more important than Hawkins’ individual numbers was the fact he served as a spark for the rest of the offense.
“When you have such a good running back playing the way he was playing [last week], it opens up so much more with the passing game and everything else,” Palmer Bush said. “It just helps the offense tremendously.”
Palmer Bush hit Charlie Chisolm on the Spartans’ second offensive play. Chisolm scored on a 6-yard run with 6:53 to play before backup quarterback Sam Bush ran in a 34-yard score to ice the game with 2:10 remaining.
Amid all the offensive fireworks, though, were a few explosive plays by Athens Christian. Eagles quarterback Navy Curry and running back Johne’ss Davis carved up the Spartans defense at times to help Athens Christian hang around.
Curry ripped off a long touchdown run just before halftime – moments after Hawkins’ 65-yard score – to keep things close at 21-14.
After intermission, the Spartans took over. They also made a concerted effort to loudly cheer after each big play. They kept it up through the end of the game.
“At halftime, we had to go in and we talked about getting the energy right,” Hawkins said. “When the energy's there, the team plays better.”
The game was Athens Academy’s first since an Oct. 23 loss at Prince Avenue Christian School. The Spartans were scheduled to play Loganville Christian two weeks ago but that game was canceled due to “health challenges” surrounding the Spartans’ opponent.
The increase in energy fueled things in the second half, but head coach Josh Alexander said it also just took his players time to reacclimate after an unpredictable time.
“It's just been emotional for these kids,” Alexander said. “People don't count on that type of thing to bother people but it really does. They came out and we played well at times the first half. Sometimes, you expect things too quickly when, sometimes, they're just not gonna roll over and let it happen. Our kids just kept fighting and played hard and we were proud of what they did.”
As for defending Davis, Alexander said he expected it would be a challenge trying to lock down the powerful junior.
“He's a special player,” Alexander said. “He's played three games now, maybe four games, and every game he's going to do what he does. All you can do is a defense is bend but don't break so, hopefully, he doesn't get too much of what he wants to do. Our defense did a good job.”
This Friday, the Spartans will play at George Walton Academy to determine the second and third seeds out of Region 8-A-Private.
Prince Avenue owns head-to-head tiebreakers against Athens Academy and George Walton, meaning the Spartans will not win the region title for the first time since the 2016 season.
But they know the playoffs present an opportunity to make up ground and possibly take on Prince Avenue a second time. In order to best set themselves up for a lengthy playoff run, the Spartans believe they must knock off George Walton (7-1, 2-1) to finish in the highest possible position.
“Our kids have just got to make sure that they're ready to play four quarters,” Alexander said. “George Walton's a good football team and our identity has been try to play balanced football on offense and really good defense and good special teams. At times, you see it but we've just got to do it for four quarters.”
Hawkins said the team must maintain its fiery atmosphere from last week when it travels to Monroe.
And when they get there, the Spartans need to stay within themselves in order to win, according to their starting quarterback.
“We've just got to play our style of football,” Palmer Bush said. “I think we can beat anyone in the state if we want to. We've just got to play our game.”