By: Tim Birney | | August 26, 2022 | Photo courtesy David Alliger


ATHENS — Executive Education Academy used a pair long pass plays late in the first half to take control on its way to a 33-14 season-opening win over Athens here Friday night in non-league football action at Alumni Stadium.

With the Raptors up 13-7, QB Darmel Lopez connected on TD passes of 92 and 47 yards in a span of  87 seconds to increase the lead to 27-7 in the closing moments of the first half.

“Those plays were killers,” said Athens assistant Keith Klein. “We just didn’t have eyes to the receiver, peaked in a little bit, and he got behind us … just a couple of mistakes. We didn’t do the little things right.”

On the night, Lopez completed 13 of 18 passes (to seven different receivers) for 290 yards and two TDs — often using his mobility to give himself more time to find open receivers. He also carried the ball twice for 19 yards and one TD.

“We saw what he could do in the films, and we tried to contain him, but a couple times our contain got blocked, and we just didn’t do the job,” said Klein.

On the flip side, Athens’ senior QB was harassed nearly every time he dropped back, and had little time to throw. He completed just 4 of 18 pass attempts for 93 yards and one TD, while being picked off three times, and sacked three times.

Two of the three EEA sacks were registered by senior nose guard Tank Martinez, who also had an interception, and 12 tackles.

“Their nose guard (Tank Martinez) killed us,” said Klein. “We made some personnel changes at halftime, and pretty much gave up our regular blocking scheme, and dropped to double-team the nose guard.

“Everybody on our (offensive) line had poor footwork in the first half,” added Klein. “We challenged them to get better at halftime, and they did step up. They looked a lot better in the second half.”

Lister was also hurt by fur dropped passes, including a potential TD throw on the game’s opening possession.

“Our passing catching was not good,” said Klein.

EEA’s speed was a big factor, said Klein.

““They were faster than us, especially on the edges.”

Sayre transfer Lucas Horton, playing in his first game for the Wildcats, returned the opening kickoff 37 yards to the Athens 49, and senior tailback Caleb Nichols ripped off a 13-yard run on the first play from scrimmage to move the ball to the EEA 38.

Three plays later, Lister rifled an 8-yard pass to junior Josh Martin on fourth-and-8 to put the ball at the EEA 28.

Four plays later, the Wildcats turned the ball over on downs at the Raptor 26.

Athens had the ball back two plays later, after Martin pounced on a fumble at the EEA 37.

The Wildcats nearly took the lead on the next play, but Lister’s perfectly-thrown pass into the end zone was dropped.

Four plays later, Athens punted the ball away, but the Wildcat defense forced a three-and-out and the offense took over at its 47.

Athens committed its first turnover of the game moments later as Lister was picked off, and the Raptors had the ball at their own 20.

A 30-yard pass from Lopez to Mayson Terrell moved the ball to midfield, and consecutive runs of 12 and 20 yards by Zamir Perkins put the Raptors in the red zone at the Wildcat 18.

Two plays later, Lopez scampered around left end untouched on an 11-yard TD run. The PAT kick made it 7-0 with 9:48 remaining in the half.

On the first play following the ensuing kickoff, Lister connected with Nichols on a swing pass into the left flats. Nichols split between blocks by Horton and left tackle sophomore Caleb Nason, and raced 70 yards to paydirt.

Lister’s PAT kick left the game tied at 7-7 with 9:31 remaining in the first half.

Two plays later, senior Matt Machmer kept the momentum on the Wildcats’ side with a leaping interception on a deep ball thrown by Lopez, but moments later the Raptors countered with an interception at the Athens 24.

EEA needed six plays take the lead, with Perkins finishing off the short drive with runs of 11 and 2 yards to give the Raptors a 13-7 lead with 4:46 left in the first half.

After an Athens three-and-out, EEA found itself pinned deep at the Wildcat 8 after Jyhmeik Roman mishandled a pitch from Lopez, then booted the ball backward as he attempted to scoop it up. The result was a 21-yard loss.

On the next play, Lopez launched a pass past midfield to Roman, who hauled in the ball, broke a tackle and raced into the end zone for a 92-yard TD completion to extend the lead to 19-7 with 2:05 left in the first half.

Less than a minute later, Athens was flagged for illegal procedure on a fourth-and-1 play, and decided to punt.

EEA was flagged for roughing-the-punter, and Athens kept possession at the Raptor 44. On the next play, Martinez intercepted a screen pass at the Wildcat 47.

It took just one play for Lopez to find Roman for a 47-yard TD. Roman also hauled in a pass from Lopez on the conversion to make it 27-7 with 38 seconds left in the first half.

Perkins added a 1-yard TD run midway through the third quarter to give the Raptors a 33-7 lead.

Athens found the end zone again with 3:13 remaining in the game on a 1-yard QB sneak by Lister.

Nichols led the Athens ground game with 47 yards on 14 carries, while Lister rushed for 10 yards and a TD on 15 carries. Overall, the Wildcats rushed for 57 yards on 35 carries.

Perkins led EEA with 62 rushing yards and two TDs on 11 carries. Overall, the Raptors rushed for 89 yards on 26 carries.

Klein said there was a bright spot for the Wildcats.

“We had a bunch of young kids in there flying around. When the young guys got in, I really liked what I saw.”

The Wildcats will host Cowanesque Valley next Friday.


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).