Athens stymies Troy's offense in 35-7 victory.

By: Brian Fees | Towanda Daily Review | September 29, 2012 | Photo courtesy Brian Fees

 

2012 Athens vs. Troy FootballTROY - For the Athens Wildcats Friday night's game against Troy meant a lot more than just taking the driver's seat in the NTL large-school race.

A day after 2012 graduate Sarah Reid was killed in a car accident, there was a ton of emotions for the Wildcats when they took the field at Alparon Park.

"The past two days have been really hard, really tough," Mike Estes said.

For most of the first half the game was scoreless on Friday and early in the second half it appeared that the Trojans might take the lead.

However, the Wildcats defense came up big and Athens got a 35-7 victory and the lead in the NTL race.

"There was no way we were not going to win this game for her," Estes said. "This win was for Sarah."

Athens coach Jack Young could see that his team had some added emotion on this night.

"They had a purpose tonight, no doubt about it," Young said. "They stayed focused and went after it."

When a team has those kind of emotions they can either channel it in a good way or it can hurt them and Young was happy to see that it helped his team.

"We talked about that," Young said. "There is no book on how to handle your emotions. But, if there was, our guys could write it after tonight. They played with two purposes tonight, to try and go for a championship and for their friend Sarah. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family."

The first half was a defensive battle with neither team able to crack through against the other's defense, however, a Troy turnover let Athens strike first.

In the final three minutes of the half Troy fumbled at their own 17 and Athens got the ball. Troy stopped the Wildcats on the first three plays and Athens faced a fourth-and-two from the nine, where they went for it and quarterback Troy Stivason picked up the first down and he ended up capping the drive with a two-yard score with 22.9 left in the half. The extra point failed and Athens led 6-0 at the half.

As soon as the second half started it was the Trojans who got the big play as Jed Wright took the opening kickoff back 92 yards to the three.

However, that's where the Athens defense held their ground, stopping the Trojans on four straight runs.

"That was a pivotal point for us," Estes said.

"We had to stop them," Tyler Birdsall added.

Young was proud of the way his defense stepped up.

"We had great senior leadership today and it was just a phenomenal defensive effort," Young said. "I can't say enough about the way the defense played."

Troy stopped Athens and got the ball back, but after a three-and-out, Athens took the ball and went 11 plays and 80 yards, capped by a 15-yard pass from Stivason to Ray McDougan with 2:03 left in the quarter. Athens lined up to kick an extra point, but the holder Tyler Forbes took the snap and hit Brad Sampson on a jump pass for the two-point try to make it 14-0.

After another three-and-out by Troy, the Wildcats got a spectacular 79 yard run from McDougan to the two, however, a holding penalty brought the play back.

It took Athens just three more plays before Birdsall matched McDougan's effort, going 80 yards for a score and this one stood up. Stivason hit the extra point and with 10:37 left it was 21-0.

"When Ray made the first cut I saw the flag," Birdsall said. "We just wanted to get it right back."

Young knows his kids were anxious to make up for the holding.

"I heard a few of them saying, let's just do it again," Young said.

Up 21-0 in the fourth the Athens defense didn't just stop the Trojans, they scored some points of their own as Brad Sampson picked off a Wright pass and ran it back 10 yards for a touchdown and after Stivason hit the extra point it was 28-0 with 6:17 left.

"I don't know how he didn't see me," Sampson said. "He threw it and he hit me right in the chest with it and I'll take that from there."

Troy got on the board with 5:17 left when Wright hit Darton Harwick on a 21-yard pass, with Josh McClaren hitting the extra point. The play was set up by another long return by Wright who went 68 yards on the kick return to set up the score.

However, Athens quickly came back as Austin Depew broke a long kick return and set up a five-yard run from Birdsall with 3:43 left and Stivason hit the extra point to make the final score.

For Athens, everything changed after the half as they scored 29 of their points in the second half.

"We got refocused at the half," Estes said. "We knew we had to come out focused on football."

For the Wildcats after everything they went through the past two days, it was nice to take the field, play tough defense and get a win.

"It was nice to take out some of that energy," Estes said.

Birdsall led the Athens offense with 25 carries for 223 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"You don't fix what is not broke," Young said of the workload for Birdsall. "We came out in the second half and went to work on the edges. We ran in the middle a lot in the first half and had some success, but in the second half we worked on the edges more."

For Birdsall it was a busy day, but an effective one.

"It was definitely a lot, I was hoping for a few more passes," Birdsall said. "But, I felt good. We managed to run the ball well."

Stivason was 3-for-8 passing and McDougan had the touchdown, while Sampson had a nine-yard catch and the interception.

Wright was 2-for-5 passing for Troy and Harwick had the touchdown and Wright had 25 yards on the ground, while Justin Bradley had 21, Greg Ellsworth had 18, Josh McClaren had 15 and Brandon Mattocks finished with 14.

Athens gained 256 yards on the ground in the win, while holding the Trojans to just 91 yards on 44 carries.

Troy hosts Loyalsock on Friday and Athens has a Saturday homecoming game.

 

About the Author

Brian Fees Author Bio
Brian Fees

Brian Fees is the sports editor of the Daily & Sunday Review in Towanda, PA.