October 13, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens capped an unbeaten regular season to defend its NTL boys cross country title here Tuesday afternoon with wins over Northeast Bradford, North Penn-Mansfield, and Wellsboro.

NP-M’s Noah Shedden kept the Wildcats from shutting out all three teams. Shedden placed first in a time of 17:20, and Athens runners finished second through sixth, respectively, to top the short-handed Tigers, 15-50.

The Wildcats swept the top five spots in a 15-48 wins over NEB, and a 15-50 victory over Wellsboro.

Connor Dahl paced the Athens effort in a time of 17:48, while Kyle Anthony clocked in at 17:57, Matt Gorsline finished in 18:21, Justin Lynch crossed the finish line in 19:20, and Ethan Denlinger clocked in at 19:43.

Izaak Hobday finished 10th for the Wildcats in a time of 20:06, while Nate Prickett was 12th in 20:31, Mason Henderson was 13th in 21:05, and Connor Brown (22:22), Brendan Jones (22:31), and Jon Ayers (22:55) finished 16th through 18th, respectively.

Emma Bronson and Thea Bentley finished 2-3, but with just four runners in action, the Lady Wildcats dropped 15-50 decisions to NEB, North Penn-Mansfield and Wellsboro.

Bronson clocked in at 21:52, while Bentley crossed the line in 23:36.

Cailyn Conklin finished 12th in 26:39 for the Lady Wildcats, and Macaria Benjamin was 20th in 29:34.

Athens returns to action Saturday morning at the NTL Coaches Invite.

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October 12, 2020 Chris Manning

WYALUSING — Down a goal late in the second half Athens had its only clean look at a ball in front of the Wyalusing net. Two Wildcats converged on it to shoot, only to have the ball sail over the crossbar.

That was how the afternoon went for the Lady ‘Cats in their 2-1 loss to Wyalusing in NTL girls’ soccer action Monday.

The loss was the first for Athens in league play in Pitts’ tenure — now in its fifth season. Entering the game, Pitts’ record in NTL games was 57-0-3.

“I thought we played well. It’s a tough field … it’s like a little postage stamp, but that’s what they have, so that’s what you show up and play on,” said Athens coach Rich Pitts. “I thought our girls fought the whole game, and played our style of soccer.

“That’s the game sometimes,” noted Pitts. “It’s the law of averages, I guess. Eventually, we are going to lose.

“Hats off to Wyalusing. They played hard, they played well. They played guys tough (at Athens), and they played us tough tonight on their own field, with some good crowd support,” added Pitts.

Athens’ last league loss was a 2-1 setback to Sayre at the Lockhart Street Bowl on Oct. 24, 2015. It snapped a 64-game regular-season league win streak.

The Ram defense was able to contain Emma Roe, Hannah Blackman and Ally Thoman much of the day while getting big goals from Alexis Capone and Marissa Johnson. Johnson’s was a penalty kick.

Thoman did break through in the second half to cut it to 2-1, but they didn’t get any closer than that, despite outshooting Wyalusing 12-6 and having a 5-2 edge in corner kicks.

Early in the game, the Wildcats had the Rams bunkered down with a series of corner kicks, but the defense held as Athens couldn’t get a clean look in the box. After that, for much of the first half, they tried long-range shots, but Wyalusing goalie Pearl O’Connor easily swallowed them up.

Wyalusing’s first good chance to score came at 31:20 as Olivia Haley got a breakaway. She aimed for the top right corner, just like her winner at Towanda, but this time it was a couple feet outside the right post.

It was a preview of how the Rams would score at 22:19 as Capone got free down the left side of the field. She buried it past the Athens goalie Abby Champion for the 1-0 lead.

Late in the half, Thoman had the best look yet for the Wildcats, coming in from the left side she had a free look at the goal. She shot low, but O’Connor was ready, scooping up the ball to preserve the 1-0 halftime lead.

The beginning of the second half saw some wide-open play as both teams made runs. Athens continued to control possession, but the Rams weren’t hunkered down like early in the first half.

The Wildcats had a good chance to score at 26:35 as a Hannah Blackman shot rebounded off of O’Connor. Norah Reid crashed for the opportunity, but O’Connor cleaned it up.

At 22:30, Haley had a free run down the left side, but her shot was just wide. Athens wasn’t able to clear it, though, and a minute later Haley drew a foul inside the box on the Wildcats.

Johnson took the penalty kick and calmly buried it in the left corner for a 2-0 Wyalusing lead.

“The PK was really soft. I thought our defender did a good job, but (the official) thought it was a PK,” said Pitts. “The (Wyalusing) girl didn’t lose possession of the ball, and didn’t fall down. I’m not sure how it was a PK, but it was because (the official) called it.”

Just as things were looking dire for Athens, its offense seemed to wake up. After drawing a foul, they had a direct kick in Wyalusing’s end. The ball ended up on Roe’s foot.

Her shot bounced off a Ram defender only for Thoman to pick it up. She found a seam on the left side of the defense and snuck it past O’Connor to trim the deficit to 2-1 with 21:07 left to play.

Haley tried to answer at 11:45 with a run, but after that it was all Athens.

They moved Hannah Walker up from the backline, and she put O’Connor on notice with a bullet from outside the box. O’Connor managed dive in front and knock it away, but it was a harbinger of things to come.

With 6:07 left, Wyalusing had its first miscue defensively and let a cross roll free through the box. Two Athens players converged on it, but the shot went over the crossbar.

Then at 4:30, the Wildcats had back-to-back chances, the first off of Walker’s foot that forced O’Connor to make another diving save, and the second was blocked by a Wyalusing defender to preserve the 2-1 lead.

That seemed to be Athens’ last gasp as Wyalusing was able to clear it.

The Wildcats now play Towanda Wednesday as they fall into a tie with Wellsboro at 7-1-1 in the NTL standings. Wyalusing is just behind both teams at 7-2.

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October 12, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — It took a couple of series to shake off the rust — the result of not playing a game in 31 days, but once Canton hit its stride, it put together a convincing performance in a 33-9 win over Athens here Monday night in NTL Large School football action at Alumni Stadium.

“We were rusty, which I’m not happy about, but I guess it had to be expected,” said Canton coach Tyler Sechrist. “We haven’t played in a month, and we only had three practices before this game.

“Once we got rolling, I was happy with the way we played,” added Sechrist.

“They are a good football team, there’s no doubt. They are well-coached, and have some talented kids,” said Athens coach Jack Young. “But, we did some things that are out of character for us, and it’s tough to compete against a team like Canton when you do those types of things.”

The Warriors opened the game with the ball, but a block-in-the-back penalty and a QB sack by seniors Athens Tanner Dildine and Caleb Houseknecht left them in a fourth-and-30 hole.

The Wildcats took over at their own 40 following a Canton punt, and quickly moved into Warrior territory as sophomore QB Mason Lister connected with junior Shayne Reid on a 12-yard completion, and junior Karter Rude on a 17-yard pick-up.

The drive bogged down after Lister could not handle a high shotgun snap, and the Wildcats were forced to punt.

Junior Caleb Nichols’ punt went out-of-bounds at the Canton 18, and the Warriors fumbled the ball away on their first play, giving the Wildcats the ball just 16 yards from paydirt.

The Canton defense, however, limited Athens to just three yards on three plays, forcing the Wildcats to attempt a field goal. Reid spilt the uprights from 30 yards out to give Athens a 3-0 lead with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter.

The rest of the first half was all Canton as they scored on their next three possessions, and added a defensive score on an odd play as time expired.

“Athens came out strong,” said Sechrist. “They were pretty tough the first series against the run, but I think we wore some of those big guys down a little bit. We just kept after them.

“I was happy with our two backs, and the way the (offensive) line came back answered,” he added.

“Canton definitely got some momentum off that stop,” said Young. “You would think the momentum would have been on our side at that point, but it wasn’t.

“From there on, it was just too many negatives,” added Young. “We missed on two scoring opportunities in the first half, and there were too many negatives. When the negatives outweigh the positives, it’s tough to compete.”

The Warriors answered Athens’ field goal with an eight-play, 58-yard scoring drive. The first seven plays featured the running of sophomores Hayden Ward and Riley Parker.

Parker ripped off 22 yards on three carries, and Ward added 16 yards on three carries. The drive culminated with a wide receiver screen to Joel Schoonover for a 22-yard TD with 1:56 remaining in the first quarter. Tyler Jannone’s PAT snuck over the crossbar to give Canton a 7-3 lead.

Jared Peterson returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards to midfield, but the Warriors forced a punt after just three plays. Nichols’ punt bounced through the end zone, giving Canton the ball at its 20.

Runs of 20 yards by junior QB Cooper Kitchen, and 25 yards by Parker quickly moved the ball to the Wildcat 35. Five plays later, Kitchen connected with 6-5 tight end Ben Knapp on a 15-yard TD pass to make it 13-3 with 9:01 remaining in the first half.

Disaster struck for the Wildcats on the ensuing kickoff as Ward stripped the Athens returner of the ball, then recovered the fumble at the Wildcat 24.

Following a 12-yard run by Ward, Parker covered the final 12 yards on two carries, including an 8-yard TD jaunt with 7:38 remaining. Jannone’s point-after kick made it 20-3.

After an exchange of punts, Athens took over at its 17, and were quickly pinned back inside their 10 following a holding penalty.

Aided by a pair of Canton penalties that accounted for 25 yards, the Wildcats drove the length of the field. Runs of 18 and 10 yards by Lister, and completions from Lister to Rude for 10 and 12 yards were key in the drive.

With time running out, Lister attempted to scramble into the end zone, but he was hit at Canton 5-yard line as time expired. Trying to keep the play alive, Lister flipped the ball backward toward a teammate, but it found the turf, where Canton sophomore Weston Bellows scooped it up at the 17, and raced 83 yards for the score to make it 26-3 at the half.

“That was a huge change of events, it’s not something you usually see,” said Sechrist. “I thought (Athens) was going to score, (but) we end up scooping and scoring right before the half; that was a big part of the outcome.”

“Mason was just trying to make something happen, but those are mistakes we can’t make,” said Young. “It should have been 19-3, and we’re still in it.

“Two of their scores in the first half came off turnovers.,” noted Young. “You take those two away, and it’s a 12-3 game at the half.”

Athens took the second-half kickoff, and thanks to 35 rushing yard by Reid, who also caught a pair of passes for 15 yards, marched into the Canton red zone.

On fourth-and-6 at the Canton 13, Lister connected with 6-5 junior J.J. Babcock in the back of the end zone to cut the deficit to 26-9.

Moments after the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats caught a big break when a backward pass bounced off the intended Warrior receiver’s shoulder pads, and Rude recovered it at the Canton 22.  An unsportsmanlike conduct call against the Warriors moved the ball half-the-distance to the goal line.

Four plays later, Reid was stopped inches short of a first down at the Canton 1.

“Our defense hung in there a couple times,” said Sechrist.

“We got the stop after the turnover in the third quarter, and we held them to a field goal after a fumble early in the game,” he added. “Those were big, that’s what helps you win football games.”

“We thought we had the first down, but those are the breaks of the game,” said Young. “We’re still OK if we make a quick stop, but on third-and-long, they punch one out there on us, and that was kind of a back-breaker.”

The “back-breaker” was a 15-yard run by Parker on third-and-8 from the Warrior 3.

After a Canton punt, Athens moved the ball to the Warrior 33, but back-to-back sacks by junior Caiden Williams and senior Derek Atherton-Ely ended the threat.

Canton moved the ball into Athens territory, thanks in large part to 29 yards on three carries by Parker, but the Warriors threat ended with their third lost fumble in the contest.

Athens ensuing possession was short-lived as Knapp registered a QB sack, and Williams and freshman Mason Harold combined to haul Lister down behind the line-of-scrimmage to force a turnover on downs.

Parker put the finishing touches on the Warrior win with a 47-yard TD run with 3:23 remaining in the contest.

Lister was sacked six times in the fourth quarter, with senior Evan Landis and freshman Hudson Ward getting to him in the Wildcats’ final possession of the game.

Parker led the Warrior ground game with 176 yards and two TDs on 19 carries, while Hayden Ward added 50 yards on seven carries, and Kitchen chipped in with 25 yards on six carries. As a team, Canton rushed for 254 yards on 36 attempts.

Kitchen also completed 6 of 8 pass attempts for 46 yards and two TDs. Knapp led Canton with three receptions for 25 yards and one TD, and Schoonover had two grabs for 25 yards and one TD.

Reid led the Wildcats with 78 rushing yards on 17 carries, and seven receptions for 50 yards.

Lister completed 15 of 29 pass attempts for 121 yards and one TD. Rude had four catches for 40 yards, while sophomore Caleb Nichols had two grabs for 25 yards. Babcock had his 13-yard TD catch, and senior Ben Pernaselli had one reception for seven yards.

Athens, now 3-1, hosts South Williamsport Saturday night.

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October 10, 2020 Tim Birney

LeRAYSVILLE — Athens scored a pair of first-half goals, then made them stand up in a 2-0 win over Northeast Bradford here Saturday afternoon in NTL boys soccer action.

The Wildcats dominated the time-of-possession, and enjoyed a 17-0 advantage in shots-on-goal, and a 4-1 edge in corner kicks.

Junior Nate Quinn scored an unassisted goal about 10 minutes into the game to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

With 7:02 remaining in the first half, the strong leg of senior Tyler Chambers gave Athens a 2-0 lead on a direct kick.

Garrett Cooper recorded 13 saves in net for the Panthers. Cooper had 20 saves in NEB’s 2-1 loss at Athens on Sept. 30.

Athens, now 9-1, hosts unbeaten Wellsboro Tuesday in a key NTL match-up.

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October 8, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — With first place on the line, Thursday’s Athens-Wellsboro’s girls soccer "battle of unbeatens" at Alumni Stadium had a postseason feel to it.

The Lady Wildcats scored goals 84 seconds apart early in the second half, and withstood a late Wellsboro goal to take sole possession of first place with a 2-1 win.

Athens has won back-to-back District 4 titles, and eight consecutive NTL championships. Athens coach Rich Pitts says this team has every intention to extend both those streaks.

“It’s a huge win for us,” he said.

“(Wellsboro) walked into the building … they were focused, and they were ready to beat us,” noted Pitts. “They thought they were going to beat us, and I challenged my girls — ‘not in our house, not this time, not anytime’ and the girls responded.

“We’re going to be the champs until somebody knocks us off. That’s not cocky, it’s just the attitude we always come with,” added Pitts. “Somebody might (knock us off) and that’s OK, but they’re going to have to beat us. We’re never going to beat ourselves.”

Athens controlled the ball throughout the contest, outshooting Wellsboro, 16-2, and also had a 7-2 edge in corner kicks.

“We changed to a 4-2-3-1,” said Pitts. “I ran it by the older girls, and they wanted to try it because we were getting a lot of pressure on with just three backs. Sitting two in front shuts everyone down, it’s just about having pace with your midfielders so you can get everyone forward.

“In the second half, we were better, especially the midfielders, getting pace, getting forward, and getting chances,” added Pitts. “It was a good game for us.”

The Lady Wildcats put pressure on the Wellsboro net from the outset. However, between errant Athens shots, and a couple nice saves by Green Hornet keeper Lilly Abadi, the game was scoreless at the intermission.

Early in the second half, Roe took a feed well outside the 18, dribbled through three or four Wellsboro defenders, and beat Abadi with a shot inside the net at the far post to give the Lady Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

“That was good stuff,” said Pitts. “(Emma) has a short memory. She missed some goals she probably should have had, but she forgot about it and moved on.

“She’s the motor of this team, and every game that clicks off is one less game I’m going to have her,” he added. “It’s been such a treat to coach her, she’s just a great kid overall. She plays 80 minutes and she still has tons of energy.”

With 33:48 remaining in the contest, Roe, along the baseline, sent a pass through the box to the far post, where senior Hannah Blackman one-touched into the back of the next from 10 yards out to make it 2-0.

Pitts credits another switch — moving Roe up front, and sophomore Ally Thoman to the midfield — for the pressure on the Wellsboro goal.

“On the way here tonight, I decided to put (Emma) up top, and see what we can do,” said Pitts.

“Emma is a midfielder, but she can score goals. Usually she’s coming from deeper in the field, so getting that in the pocket is not what she normally does. They bracketed her with two girls, there were basically six girls marking her.

“Ally (Thoman) is only a sophomore … those balls she was playing through to Emma in the first half were nice. We work on that a lot, and Ally got her head up, and found Emma a ton,” noted Pitts. “It was brilliant stuff.

“I thought Thoman played a great game tonight, putting her in the spotlight role that Emma usually runs,” he added. “And (Hannah) Blackman is always there for us, she’s a stud back there.”

Athens maintained pressure on the Wellsboro goal, but Abadi and the Green Hornet defense kept the score at 2-0.

With 6 1/2 minutes remaining, Kerrah Clymer, off a feed from Cara Tennis, put Wellsboro on the board.

With 4 minutes remaining, the Lady Wildcats got off three hard shots from inside 15 yards, but Abadi made two athletic saves, and another shot ricocheted off a defender.

Athens kept the ball in the Wellsboro for nearly all of the remaining four minutes.

Athens, now 7-0-1, travels to Wyalusing Monday, while Wellsboro, now 6-1-1, travels to NP-Mansfield Saturday.

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October 8, 2020 Tim Birney

TOWANDA — Athens bounced back from a four-set loss at North Penn-Liberty Tuesday, with a sweep of Towanda here Thursday night in NTL Large School volleyball action.

Last year, Athens twice won the first two sets against Towanda, only to lose the next three.

The Lady Wildcats won by scores 25-18, 25-18, and 25-19.

Athens coach Heather Hanson was pleased with her team’s poise and concentration.

“I’m glad we didn't give them a set, it’s something we’ve been working on.

“It was deathly silent in the gym, so the girls did great dealing with it and trying their best to make noise.,” noted Hanson.

Senior Leah Liechty led the Lady Wildcats, registering 17 kills and two assists.

“Leah Liechty was on fire tonight,” said Hanson. “It was great to see.”

Senior Kayleigh Miller had 36 setter assists, 12 digs, and two service aces for Athens, while senior Taylor Field recorded 19 digs and two aces, senior Kylie Jayne had 10 kills, five digs, and three aces, and junior Ally Martin had seven kills, four digs, and three aces.

Sophomore Jenny Ryan had seven digs, four kills, and three aces in the win, while junior Taylor Walker had five kills, four digs, and three aces, senior Grace Witherow added seven digs, and senior Gia Perry chipped in with three digs.

DaLanie Pepper led Towanda with five service points, 15 assists, nine digs, and two kills, while Paige Manchester had seven points, nine kills, thee blocks, and six digs, Grace Schoonover registered nine kills and four blocks, Blaze Wood added seven digs and thee kills, and Amanda Horton chipped in with two points and seven digs.

Athens, now 6-3, hosts Wellsboro Tuesday.

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October 7, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Junior Nate Quinn scored two goals and dished out two assists to lead Athens to a 6-1 win over Williamson here Wednesday evening in NTL boys soccer action at Alumni Stadium.

The Wildcats, who won four games last week, improve to 8-1 with the win.

“After a tough week on the team physically last week, we were able to get some quality training in the past two days,” said Athens coach Jake Lezak. “It really paid off for us, and the players are getting more touches on the ball and better each session.

“We covered some tactical issues that we need to continue to reinforce, and they boys did a really nice job tonight with transferring training to the game.

“A few players were shuffled around and played very well for us tonight,” added Lezak.

Senior Tyler Chambers scored an unassisted goal about 5 1/2 minutes into the game, and Quinn make his first mark in scorebook with a goal at the 12-minute mark to make it 2-0.

Five minutes later junior Daniel Horton, off a feed from Quinn, scored to make it 3-0, which carried over into the halftime intermission.

Nine minutes into the second half, senior Joey Toscano, off a feed from Quinn, scored to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.

Quinn, with an assist from junior Jason Gao, scored his second goal to make it 5-0 with 23:58 left in the contest.

Sophomore Jared Ammerman, off an assist from freshman Korey Miller,  capped the Athens scoring with 1:53 remaining in the contest.

Caleb Coats put Williamson on the scoreboard on a penalty kick with 66 seconds remaining.

Athens had a 16-2 advantage in shots-on-goal, and a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.

Athens returns to action Saturday at NEB. Game time is 1 p.m.

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October 7, 2020 Tim Birney

SAYRE — Seven different Athens players found the net in an 8-0 win over Sayre here Wednesday afternoon in NTL junior high soccer action at Riverfront Park.

Eli Benninger-Jones and Addyson Wheeler scored goals in the first 10 minutes to give the junior Wildcats a quick 2-0 lead.

Pete Jones added a goal five minutes later, and Chase Ingram scored at the 25-minute mark to give Athens a 4-0 lead at the halftime intermission.

Jase Babcock recorded three saves in net in the first half.

Babcock took to the field in the second half, and scored just five minutes after the intermission to make it 5-0.

Ronel Ankem, Ingram, and Adam Kemp added second-half goals to close out the scoring.

Hannah Earls had one save for Athens in second half.

Athens had a 4-0 edge in corner kicks.

The game was called early due to thunder and severe weather.

Athens improves to 9-0-1 on the season, while Sayre falls to 1-6.

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October 5, 2020 Chris Manning

ATHENS — Athens coach Jack Young knew this had the makings of a trap game.

The contest had been moved from Friday to Saturday, then Saturday to Monday. It wasn’t until 9:30 a.m. Monday morning that they had confirmed they were going to play.

Still, his Athens team responded, making the most of five Towanda turnovers to roll to a 44-14 win in NTL football action Monday.

“We talked about taking care of opportunities when we have them, and trying to make opportunities for ourselves,” said Young. “At the same time, we still made some silly mistakes with formations and things like tha,t but I think we’re coming.

“We’re getting better and better and better and, when you play in these circumstances, and Towanda’s played some really solid defense,” added Young. “Once again, I think the line-of-scrimmage was real key for us tonight as it was against Wyalusing.”

The Wildcats dominated on the ground — rushing for 201 yards on 39 carries, led by Shayne Reid’s 108 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. But whoever touched the ball did things with it — Caleb Nichols ran for 35 yards on nine carries with a touchdown, and through the air Karter Rude had five catches for 98 yards.

“I’m super proud of the way they’re playing as a group,” said Young. “We’ve got a lot of kids we’re getting on the field and that makes me proud as a coach.”

Under center, Mason Lister was 7-for-17 for 122 yards, while also running for 36 yards and a score on seven carries. JJ Babcock had two catches for 24 yards.

After a flat start, Athens got going as the Knights had four turnovers in the first half, which gave them short fields, and the Wildcats took advantage of them. Then, in the second half they took care of business early to put the game away.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the kids,” said Young. “We came in a little bit early to do some walk-through stuff to make sure our minds were right; again, not a perfect game, but I’m real, real proud of the way we’re playing as a team.”

The Wildcats were flagged 11 times for 55 yards, but didn’t turn the ball over once.

For Towanda, Rhyan West ran for 84 yards on 14 carries with a score while Mitchell Mosier was 5-for-15 for 58 yards with a touchdown and two picks.

Haven Benjamin-Fee had two catches for 42 yards, while Justin Schoonover caught two passes for 10 yards and a touchdown. Trent Kithcart ran eight times for 24 yards, and also caught a 3-yard pass.

The Black Knights took the opening kick-off and seemed to be in business, thanks to an 8-yard run by Benjamin-Fee on second down. A 3-yard rush by Mosier gave them a new set of downs near midfield.

However, Athens bogged down the Towanda offense, holding them to short gains and forcing a punt.

On Athens’ ensuing drive, Lister hit Rude for an 11-yard gain and a new set of downs, but the Towanda defense held, forcing the Wildcats to punt.

Towanda’s second possession began with a 10-yard run by Kithcart to get out to its own 30-yard line. However, two plays later, a Mosier pass was picked off by Jaden Wright, giving Athens the ball back inside the Towanda 40-yard line.

A first-down hold pushed the Wildcats back to midfield, but an 11-yard run by Nichols got the yardage back. An 8-yard pass play of Lister-to-Rude set up third-and-short. Towanda held on third dow,n but Athens’ Reid punched through the line for a new set of downs on fourth down, rumbling to the Towanda 22-yard line.

He followed that up with a 15-yard run inside the 10-yard line. Two plays later, Lister rolled out left and dove just inside the pylon for the touchdown, finishing off the 49-yard, 7-play scoring drive.

Reid added the point-after for the 7-0 lead with 1:07 left in the first quarter.

On Towanda’s ensuing drive, back-to-back runs by West and Mosier set up third-and-short, but Athens broke through the line and forced Kithcart to fumble the ball. It was scooped up by the Wildcats, and they set up shot at Towanda’s own 31-yard line.

Once again the drive start with a penalty — this one illegal procedure, but an 11-yard run by Lister got the yardage back. Two shorts runs by Nichols and Lister got them a new set of downs.

A false start backed them up again, but Lister hit Babcock with a 7-yard pass play to get inside the Towanda red zone.

Two plays later, on 3rd-and-6 Reid rumbled for 10 yards to set up a first-and-goal at the Knight 6-yard line. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-1, Reid punched it in for the touchdown to end the 36-yard, 9-play scoring drive. He added the point-after for the 14-0 lead with 8:40 left in the half.

Towanda’s ensuing drive ended with another turnover, as on third down they fumbled the ball back to Athens.

The Wildcats took over at Towanda’s 37-yard line, but the Knights continued to play stingy defense. After a first-down incompletion, Towanda held Reid to short gains on the next two downs to set up a 4th-and-2 at the 20-yard line.

Athens went back to Reid, who punched through for a 5-yard gain and a new set of downs. Towanda’s defense held up, though, forcing Athens two two more short runs and an incompletion. On 4th-and-5 from the Towanda 7-yard line the Wildcats elected for a field goal and Reid hit the 24-yarder to make it 17-0 with 3:50 left in the half.

On the ensuing kick-off, Towanda fumbled again and Athens recovered at the Knight 22-yard line.

It would take them two plays to find pay dirt — a 21-yard pass play from Lister to Rude, followed by a Reid 1-yard plunge. Athens tried a fake PAT on the point-after attempt, but it was no good. Still, they led 23-7 with 3:13 let in the first half.

The ensuing Knight possession started promising as West broke four Athens tackles at the line-of-scrimmage as he rumbled 29 yards down the left side of the field. However, a short gain and two incompletions later and Towanda was punting again.

Athens took over at their 38-yard line, but struggled as well. They would turn it over on downs as lister went 0-for-3 on the drive.

With 1:06 left on the clock and starting at the Athens 45-yard line Towanda wouldn’t get a better chance to put points up on the scoreboard.

They took it, as on second down Mosier hit Benjamin-Fee on a crossing pattern. He out ran most of the Athens defense with Reid saving a touchdown as he tackled Benjamin-Fee at the 4-yard line.

The Wildcat defense would catch Towanda for a 3-yard loss on the next play, while Mosier’s second-down pass to Kithcart was well defended by the official, who inadvertently blocked Kithcart from making the catch.

However, on the next play Towanda finally got a good bounce as Mosier’s pass intended for Kithcart was deflected into the air, but came down into the hands of Justin Schoonover.

The 4-yard completion was the Knights’ first score of the season and, after Logan Lambert’s point after, Towanda cut it to 23-7 with 21 seconds left in the half. It was a 45-yard, 5-play scoring drive.

Athens came out strong in the second half, taking the ensuing kickoff and going 74 yards on seven plays to paydirt. A pitch two Reid on the first play netted 32 yards to get to midfield. An 11-yard Lister run followed, with Nichols then rumbling six yards for a new set of downs at the Towanda 30-yard line.

Lister then hit Rude for a 15-yard pass play. That was followed by back-to-back 6-yard runs to set up first-and-goal at the 3-yard line. Reid punched it in and, after Reid’s point-after, Athens led 30-7 with 8:32 left in the third quarter.

On Towanda’s ensuing drive Mosier did a good job keeping it alive, running for 8-yards on 3rd-and-1, but on the next play he was picked off by Nichols, who returned it to the Towanda 5-yard line.

Back-to-back Nichols runs got Athens to the end zone. Reid hit the point-after and the Wildcats now led 37-7 with 5:38 left in the third.

Towanda’s next drive began with two strong runs by West and Kithcart, which ended in a new set of downs at their own 41-yard line, but it stalled out there and the Knights were forced to punt.

Penalties killed Athens’ ensuing drive as a block-in-the-back and delay of game set up a 3rd-and-19. Lister hit Babcock for a 17-yard gain, which set up 4th-and-2.

On the fourth-down run by Nichols, though, Towanda’s Clay Watkins made a big stop at the line-of-scrimmage and forced a turnover on downs.

A 9-yard run on second down by West got Towanda across midfield, but back-to-back negative runs by the Knights forced a turnover on downs on them.

Athens took over at their own 44 yard line and, on the second play from scrimmage, Lister hit Rude for a 43-yard gain down to the Towanda 11-yard line.

Three plays later, on 3rd-and-3 from the 4, Athens’ Jared Peterson punched it in for their final touchdown of the night. Reid added the point-after and the Wildcats led 44-7, after the 56-yard, 5-play drive with 10:04 left in the game.

Towanda had one final drive left in them and, starting on their own 30-yard line, took nine plays to go the 70 yards to pay dirt.

Runs of 13 and 15 yards by West set up Towanda inside the Athens 40-yard line. A Kithcart 7-yard run on second down made it 3rd-and-5. Mosier would hit Schoonover for a 4-yard gain, making it 4th-and a long 1.

Mosier drew the Athens defense offsides, giving them a new set of downs at the 23-yard line. After an incompletion on first down, a bad snapped on second looked like a busted play, but West made something of it, picking up the rolling ball and darting his way through the Wildcat defense for a 23-yard touchdown run.

Lambert hit the point-after and it was now a 44-14 game, which is how it would end.

Athens’ NTL ‘North’ schedule is done — they get a bye this week, then host South Williamsport the following Friday. But, if this season has shown anything, it’s that tomorrow isn’t certain.

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September 25, 2020 Chris Manning

WYALUSING — This was the game Athens coach Jack Young was waiting for, and his team’s 21-14 victory over Wyalusing Friday night was worth the wait.

It was a complete Wildcat effort as they dominated the line-of-scrimmage, put together long drives and held a Wyalusing offense to half the yardage it put up in its win last week against CV.

“It’s huge, absolutely huge,” Athens quarterback Mason Lister said about getting the win. “A great game that came down to the wire — it was a little closer than I wanted it to be, but we made it work.”

The big improvement for Athens came up front as Athens won the battle in the trenches.

“Those guys played really well on both sides of the ball,” said Young. “Our line was much improved tonight because they feel like they didn’t play a real good game against Sayre.”

Young mentioned his seniors — Lucas Aquilio, Connor Sindoni, Ian Wright, Zac Gowin and Ben Pernaselli — as the key to their play this week. They outgained the Rams 165-121 on the ground and, at one point in the second half, held the ball for more than 10 minutes.

“We told them coming in ‘you guys are the key,’” Young said. “As many athletes as we are getting involved in the game on both sides, the key is still the line-of-scrimmage.”

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September 11, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Hobbled by leg cramps for most of the second half, junior Shayne Reid split the uprights on a 27-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to lift Athens to a 10-7 win over Sayre here at Alumni Stadium Friday night in the annual Rusty Rail rivalry game.

The kick was Reid’s first career field goal.

“It feels amazing. All I was thinking about was getting it through the two poles,” he said.  “Everything — the snap and the hold — was perfect.”

“Shayne (Reid) could barely walk,” said Athens coach Jack Young. “We carried him out onto the field, and he kicked the game-winner — they write stories about that kind of stuff.”

The win snaps Sayre’s two-year hold on the Rusty Rail trophy.

“It feels insane,” said Reid. “We all worked very hard for this. We worked all summer, and we came and got it.”

Young was pleased to bring the Rusty Rail back to Athens.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “As ugly as this game was, it really is what rivalry games are all about — battling back-and-forth and scrapping.

“I’m super-happy for the kids, it’s been a long three weeks,” noted Young. “I could not be prouder of our effort, and with how the kids hung in there.”

And ugly it was.

Athens was penalized 11 times for 115 yards, and committed three turnovers, while Sayre was flagged eight times for 50 yards, and also turned the ball over three times.

“We probably led the state tonight in penalties,” said Young. “Some of them were foolish, and they have to be corrected.”

“We gave the game away,” said Sayre coach Kevin Gorman. “We shot ourselves in the foot constantly with turnovers and penalties.

“Overall, I thought we played well offensively and defensively, but when it’s crunch time, we can’t fumble,” added Gorman.

The Wildcats used a big play on the opening kickoff to get a little early momentum as Reid reeled off a 30-yard return to the Sayre 49.

Sophomore QB Mason Lister completed three consecutive passes for 25 yards, including a 15-yard catch-and-run to Reid to move the ball to the Redskin 24.

Five plays later, Sayre senior Matt Lane stripped Reid of the ball after a 7-yard gain at the Redskin 5.

“We put together a nice drive and then turned it over in the red zone,” said Young. “We have to get better in that area … we have to eliminate those kinds of mistakes.”

“We coach that, when we’re gang-tackling, guys get in there and start ripping at the ball,” said Gorman. “It was a big play — a big turnover down deep.

“Kudos to (Athens), they came out throwing the ball,” added Gorman. “I knew they could do it, but I didn’t expect it. Our guys needed a little time to adjust, but once they did, they played well.”

On Sayre’s second play, junior David Northrop ripped off a 12-yard run, then junior Jake Bennett followed with runs of 8 and 13 yards to move the ball to the Sayre 37.

However, a pair of penalties bogged down the Redskin drive, and they were forced to punt. Disaster struck when the snap sailed over sophomore Lucas Horton’s head, and the Wildcats took possession after a 27-yard loss by the Redskins at the Sayre 11.

An offensive pass interference call against the Wildcats on their first play of the possession moved the ball back to the Sayre 26, but two plays later Lister rolled right under pressure and found Reid open in the back of the end zone for a 25-yard TD pass with 3:49 remaining in the first quarter.

Reid tacked on the extra point to give Athens a 7-0 lead.

After an exchange of possessions, Sayre used its ground game in a 12-play, 44-yard march to the Wildcat 15, before turning the ball over on downs with 5:12 remaining in the first half.

Athens picked up a pair of first downs, but fumbled the ball away, and the Redskins took over at the Wildcat 39 with 2:12 remaining in the first half.

A nine-yard run by Bennett, and a 15-yard run by Horton quickly advanced the ball into the red zone at the Athens 15.

The Redskins moved the ball to the Athens 3, but twice were flagged for illegal procedure, and ended up running out of time with the ball at the 3.

At the end of the half, Sayre had two opportunities, and we made plays — that’s what rivalry games are all about,” said Young.

“We didn’t give up any big plays tonight, and that was one of our goals.

“When teams put together a few first downs on you, it becomes a matter of digging deep and making a play, and we did that all night long,” added Young.

“We had our chances, especially late in the first half,” said Gorman. “We can’t make those kinds of mistakes when we’re on the doorstep like that.”

The second half started exactly as the first half did, except it was a 22-yard kick return by Northrop that set the Redskins up at the Athens 49.

After one first down, Sayre was forced to punt. Reid mishandled Horton’s punt, but recovered the muff at the Wildcat 9.

Five plays later, the Wildcats fumbled the ball away at their own 19.

The Redskins needed just one play — a 19-yard scamper around left end by Northrop — to find paydirt. Senior Nic Bentley’s PAT kick tied the game at 7-7 with 7:14 remaining in the third quarter.

After an exchange of punts, Athens sophomore Caleb Nichols stepped in front of a Horton pass and returned it 15 yards to the Sayre 26.

The Redskin defense, however, forced a quick turnover on downs, and gave the ball back to the Sayre offense at its 23.

After another exchange of punts, the Redskins took over at their own 10.

Two plays after runs of 13 and 8 yards by Northrop, Athens senior Tanner Dildine pounced on a botched Redskin hand-off to give the Wildcats possession at the 38.

Lister completed passes of 5 yards to sophomore Karter Rude, and 9 yards to Dildine to move the ball to the Sayre 24, and Reid then ripped off an 11-yard run — his longest of the game — to the Redskin 13.

After two rushing attempts and incomplete pass moved the ball just three yards to the Sayre 10, Reid lined up and delivered the game-winning 27-yard field goal with 2:17 remaining in the contest.

On the ensuing kickoff, Northrop broke free and galloped to the Wildcat 47, but a block-in-the-back flag brought the ball back to the Redskin 20.

Sayre moved the ball to the Athens 45 in short order, thanks in large part to a 32-yard completion from Horton to senior Tavone McClenny, but Athens senior defensive end Ben Pernaselli stripped Horton of the ball in the backfield moments later, and Dildine recovered with 42 seconds left to effectively end the game.

Lister completed 16 of 25 pass attempts for 160 yards and one TD. Rude led the Wildcat receivers with seven catches for 86 yards, and Reid added three receptions for 45 yards and one TD.

Athens rushed for just 58 yards on 27 carries, with Reid’s 33 yards on seven carries leading the way.

The Redskins rushed for 178 yards on 32 carries. Northrop led the way with 95 yards on 15 carries, and Bennett added 84 yards on 14 carries.

Horton completed 4 of 14 pass attempts for 47 yards, and was intercepted once. Josh Arnold had two grabs for nine yards, and McClenny had one catch for 32 yards.

The Wildcats return to action Friday at Canton, while the Redskins are off until Sept. 25 when they host Cowanesque Valley.

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September 10, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — For the first time since 1980, Athens and Sayre will open the season against each other here Friday night at Alumni Stadium.

“I know they talked about playing the rivalry games early in the season to make sure we’d play these games, but I don’t think anyone anticipated Week 1,” said Athens coach Jack Young. “At the same time, our kids would be happy, and I think the Sayre kids would be happy, if we played five weeks in a row — why not?

“It’s been one of those years. When our kids first heard, they thought we were scrimmaging Sayre, so we had to set them straight and get them focused,” added Young. “It’s exciting. Our seniors have set the tone, and said ‘there’s no better way to get it going than opening up with Sayre.”

“It's going to be interesting,” said Sayre coach Kevin Gorman. “The (Rusty Rail) game at the end of the year is always something the players look forward to, but with the uncertainty of everything I understand why it's week one.

“I was hoping for a week 2 or 3 game to give us a game or two to get all the mistakes out of the way, but I'm just looking forward to the season and the game,” added Gorman. “And, the players are excited to play and even more excited for the Rusty Rail week one.”

Both coaches agree playing in the season-opener has kept their players focused.

“The kids probably would have practice all day (Monday)  if we had let them because it’s Sayre week,” said Young. “They’ve been focused and motivated.”

“It’s definitely helped,” said Gorman. “The high schools only being a minute away from each other, the kids all know each other.

“We had a good camp, and I think the kids are pretty focused,” he added.

This is the 120th edition of the Athens-Sayre rivalry, with the Redskins leading the all-time series 61-48-10.

It’s the 21st Rusty Rail game. Athens leads the series 17-3, but Sayre has won the last two games, including a 21-14 win last year at the Lockhart Street Bowl, following on the heels of a 17-game win streak by the Wildcats.

Gorman said his team is not obsessing over its two-game win streak.

“I don’t think the kids are concerned with a win streak, they just know the Rusty Rail is on the line, and we need to get the trophy back to Sayre,” he said. “I think that’s the approach during the week.

“I don’t like to push the Rusty Rail on them. I just want s to go out there and play our game, and, hopefully, come home with a win,” added Gorman.

While Athens’ 17-game win streak is the longest in the rivalry, Sayre has twice put together 10-game win streaks against Athens. The first was from 1922-26 when the two schools played twice a year, and from 1933-40, which also included a few years with two games.

Athens won first game in series 14-0 in 1915, but Sayre won second game, 13-9, in 1917. Sayre followed it up with wins of 21-0 and 13-0 in 1920.

The two schools played at least once every year through 1936. After two years off, they renewed the rivalry in 1939 and have played every year since, aside from 1965 through 1968, when the rivalry was put on hiatus due to incidents of school vandalism.

The Redskins are coming off an 8-3 season, which ended with a 26-20 home loss to Muncy in the District 4, Class A semifinals.

The Wildcats were 1-10 in 2019, including back-to-back season-ending losses to Sayre and Waverly.

Both coaches believe Friday’s game boils down to one simple thing.

“If you control the line-of-scrimmage on either side of the ball, you’re more than likely winning the game,” said Gorman.

“We’ve talked about it all week, winning the battle on the line-of-scrimmage is huge,” said Young.

“They have a big offensive line, so I expect to see a healthy dose of Shayne Reid, who is a good back,” said Gorman. “He hurt us quite a bit last year. When you watch films from last year, you see he hurt a lot of teams.

“They have (J.J.) Babcock on the outside, and Mason Lister can throw it around a little bit,” noted Gorman. “They may get in shotgun, and throw it around to get the ball to some of their athletes.

“I expect the run game first, then for them to drop back and try to catch us napping with a pass over the top, or something quick,” added Gorman.

“They do a great job of covering the field,” said Young. “We think we see something, and they adjust quickly. Kevin (Gorman) does a nice job of getting their kids disciplined defensively.

“They play well as a unit defensively,” added Young. “We have to be patient offensively. We have to see what we can take, then take advantage of it and produce.”

”I don’t think they’re going to be any different than the Sayre teams we’ve seen the last couple of years,” said Young. “They are going to formation us, they’re going to spread the field, wanting to run the ball, and chuck it downfield.”

“They run the 4-3, and they run it well — they know what they’re doing,” said Gorman. “They do run man, and might mix in a little Cover-3.

“Their defensive line is big,” noted Gorman. “The key point for us, with our experienced offensive line, is to control the front to keep Lucas (Horton) clean when we’re passing, and to open run lanes for our backs — that definitely will be a big factor for us.

“With it being the first game, they could have been working on something different offensively or defensively for the whole camp, or summer, and all of the sudden they give us a new look, but I expect the 4-3,” added Gorman.

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April 29, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — Athens senior Aaron Lane led the Wildcats to the NTL Showdown championship, and was voted the NTL “Player of the Year” in recent voting by the league’s coaches, while his teammates sophomore J.J. Babcock and senior Damian Hudson earned Large School all-star accolades.

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April 29, 2020 Tim Birney

ATHENS — To the victors go the spoils. The NTL Large School champion Athens Lady Wildcats brought home three of the major league awards in recent voting by the league’s coaches, with junior Kayleigh Miller earning top honors as NTL “Player of Year” honors.

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Athens, Valley Sports Report & Circle W Sports to launch new Wildcat Athletics website

Athens, Valley Sports Report & Circle W Sports to launch new Wildcat Athletics website

February 24, 2020 Tim Birney

WAVERLY - River Road Media Group, parent company of Valley Sports Report, and Circle W Sports announced a partnership Sunday with the Athens Area School District to provide an athletic web site for all Wildcat sports.

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