By: Tim Birney | | October 21, 2022 | Photo courtesy Matt Patton



ATHENS — Athens’ defense had times when it bent but didn’t break, and it came up with a pair of timely turnovers to lead the Wildcats to a 17-10 win over Central Columbia here Friday night in non-league football action at Alumni Stadium.

“I couldn’t be happier with our defense,” said Athens coach Jack Young. “We didn’t play great defense tonight. But, we kept them out of the end zone.

“We knew (Central Columbia) was going to come in and be tough,” noted Young. “They’ve played some people tough for halves. They’ve been real physical. You can see it on film. We knew we were going to be in a dog fight.”

The Blue Jays opened the game with a bit of trickery, but sophomore Caleb Nason recovered an onside kick attempt at the Athens 45.

Three plays later, Athens punted the ball away, and Central Columbia took advantage of a short punt to start at its own 38.

With Gage Chipelski and Grayson Shaud doing the majority of the leg work, the Blue Jays drove the ball into the Athens red zone. However, the Athens defense stiffened, and Blake Maguire booted a 36-yard field goal to give Central Columbia a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Midway through the second quarter, Central Columbia was on the move again, when senior Lucas Horton stepped in front of a Shaud pass at the Wildcat 28, and returned it to midfield.

Four plays later, senior QB Mason Lister, who eclipsed the 5,000 yards in career passing yardage in the game, connected with senior Matt Machmer on a 36-yard TD strike. Lister’s PAT kick gave Athens a 7-3 lead that it carried into the halftime locker room.

The Blue Jays came out of the intermission, and put together a 19-play drive that the Wildcats snuffed out in the shadow of their end zone — at the 1-yard line.

Athens had very little success on the ground in the game, but on this possession found some running lanes and moved the ball out to its 37.

On second-and-eight, Lister hooked up with senior tailback Caleb Nichols in the flats for a 51-yard gain to the Blue Jay 12.

A QB sack left the Wildcats facing fourth-and-14, but Lister split the uprights with a 33-yard field goal to make it 10-3 early in the fourth quarter.

Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Machmer scooped up a Blue Jay fumble and raced 32 yards to paydirt. Lister’s PAT kick made it 17-3.

Central Columbia answered with a quick scoring drive, culminating with an 11-yard TD pass from Shaud to Logan Welcom with 3 minutes remaining.

After Nichols recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt, he picked up 9 yards and 5 yards on consecutive carries, which allowed the Wildcats to finish off the game in victory formation.

Lister completed 10 of 20 passes for 127 yards (giving him 5,067 for his career), and one TD.

Nichols had three catches for 57 yards, and Machmer had four grabs for 49 yards and one TD.

Nichols led Athens with 22 yards on eight carries, and sophomore Kolsen Keathley tacked on 20 yards on four carries.

The Blue Jays had a 298-182 advantage in total offense, including 175 yards on the ground to Athens’ 55, but committed three turnovers, while Athens did not commit a turnover.

Shaud completed 12 of 20 pass attempts for 123 yards, one TD, and one interception, with Dylan Greggory’s four catches for 41 yards leading seven different receivers who caught at least one ball.

Chipelski led the CC ground game with 67 yards on 14 carries, and Shaud added 55 yards on 15 carries.

Athens, now 6-3, still does not have a game for next weekend, so will prepare for a District 4, Class 3A quarter-final game the following weekend.


About the Author

Tim Birney Author Bio
Tim Birney

Tim Birney is the founder / owner of River Road Media Group. He was born and raised in the Valley, graduating from Waverly High School in 1984.

Birney earned an Associate's Degree in Journalism from SUNY Morrisville in 1986 and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism / Public Relations from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1988. He began his newspaper career at The Daily Review in Towanda in 1989, before moving on to The Evening Times in 1995. He spent more than 10 years at the Times, the last four as Managing Editor.

River Road Media Group includes five sites in "The Sports Reports" family that cover 24 school districts in five counties: Valley Sports Report (launched Aug. 10, 2009), Tioga County (NY) Sports Report (Aug. 13, 2018), and Northern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 31, 2020); Northern Tier West Sports Report (March 15, 2021) Southern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 16, 2021).