ATHENS — The Troy offense played keep away for the majority of the game,
and the Trojan defense forced a pair of key first-half turnovers in a
13-0 win over Athens here Friday night in a key early-season NTL Large
School Division football match-up at Alumni Stadium.
The Trojans ran 32 offensive plays in the first half, compared to just 14 for the Wildcats.
“(Troy) just lined up and ran it right at us,” said Athens coach Jack Young. “It was dive, it was iso, and it was toss.
“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “They just pounded the ball on the ground and kept it away from us for large chunks of time.
“We were really concerned that they were going to pound the ball at us, and that we’d get beat up at the line-of-scrimmage, but our kids played really solid at the line-of-scrimmage — on both sides of the ball,” added Young.
Young was pleased with his team’s defensive performance.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way our kids showed up and played.
“We played a really solid defensive game,” said Young. “We had one breakdown in the first half, it probably should have been 0-0 at halftime.
“In the second half, we just a couple of mistakes that beat us,” he added. “We played physical. We got after it.”
The Wildcats gained 114 yards on the ground on 25 carries, with senior Shayne Reid’s 80 yards on 10 carries leading the way.
Lister completed 11 of 19 passes for 79 yards. Reid had three catches for 21 yards, while freshman Kolsen Keathley had three receptions for 19 yards, and junior J.J. Babcock added two grabs for 27 yards.
“We did get some things going offensively here and there, but we kept shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Young. “We had a couple big turnovers that hurt us. We had a couple big penalties that hurt us, and we had a couple breakdowns in pass protection that hurt us.
“It seemed that every time we got something going offensively, one of those three things got us,” he added.
The Trojans turned the ball over on down on the opening possession of the game when senior Damien Landon was stopped short of the first-down marker on 4th-and-2 at the Troy 43.
The Trojan defense yielded just four yards on three plays, and forced an Athens punt.
After one first down, Troy faced a fourth-and-four at its own 38, but a 23-yard run by Landon on a fake punt kept the drive alive and moved the ball to the Athens 39.
Four plays later, Landon bulled ahead for eight yards to give the Trojans a second-and-2 at the Athens 18, but following an illegal procedure call against the Trojans, the drive stalled and the Wildcats took over on downs at their 21.
Two plays later, Reid broke free for 17 yards, but coughed the ball up, and Troy recovered at the Wildcat 41.
The Troy drive started poorly with a botched snap, and Landon needed a 3-yard pickup on fourth-and-2 at the Wildcat 33 to keep the drive alive.
On fourth-and-four at the Athens 13, sophomore Clayton Smith found junior Justice Chimics open for a 13-yard TD pass to give Troy a 6-0 lead with 7:02 remaining in the first half.
The Wildcats moved the ball to midfield on their next possession, but were forced to punt. Junior Caleb Nichols pinned the Trojans at their own 2 with a 48-yard punt.
The Athens defense forced a three-and-out, and the Wildcats took over at their own 38 with 1:54 remaining in the first half.
Lister connected with the 6-5 Babcock for a 24-yard gain to the Troy 14 on the Wildcats’ first play, but they coughed the ball up and the Trojans recovered at the 17 on the next play.
The Wildcats opened the second half with the ball, and drove to the Troy 29, thanks in large part to 26 yards on five carries by Reid, before turning the ball over on downs.
After an exchange of punts, Troy took over at its own 20 with 11:12 remaining in the contest.
A 29-yard run by Smith on Troy’s fourth play moved the ball to the Athens 40, and three plays later, Chimics broke loose on a 36-yard TD run to give the Trojans a 12-0 lead with 7:35 remaining in the game.
Keathley ripped off a 23-yard run on Athens’ first play of its ensuing possession, and Lister gained 13 yards on two carries to move the ball to the Troy 33, but the drive stalled out at the Trojan 29 with 6:12 remaining in the game.
After Troy punted the ball away, Athens moved the ball to midfield, but Troy standout lineman Mason Imbt registered a QB sack for a 15-yard loss, and the Wildcats possession ended on down two plays later.
Troy pounded out 247 rushing yards on 49 carries, with Landon and Smith leading the way. Landon gained 96 yards on 24 carries, and Smith added 95 yards on 16 carries. Chimics chipped in with 42 yards and one TD on three carries.
Three different Trojans — Chimics, Smith, and Woodward — completed passes to three different receivers — Jeff Roy, Chimics, and Jayden Renzo.
Troy, 1-1, hosts Central Columbia Friday, while Athens, 1-1, travels to Towanda.
ATHENS — Athens hosts Troy here tonight at Alumni Stadium in a key early-season Northern Tier League football contest. Kick-off is 7 p.m.
The Wildcats are coming off a 44-6 demolition of Hanover, while Troy also hosted a non-league foe — dropping a 20-0 decision to Bald Eagle Area.
“Troy lost a tough game to a solid football team (in Week 1),” said Athens coach Jack Young. “There’s no disguising what Troy, they are a good mix of physical kids.”
“It’s going to be a huge test for us in Week 2,” noted Young. “We will see what we’re made of.
“Troy presents certain things to you, and you have to play the game a little differently against them,” he added.
The Trojan cornerstone is two-way lineman Mason Imbt, who stands in at 6-3, 300 pounds.
“Obviously, they are led up from by Imbt, who is a mountain of a kid,” said Young. “He plays really hard — he gives 100 percent on every snap. He’s fun to watch … you don’t see many kids like him.”
WHEN TROY HAS THE BALL
Troy rushed for 153 yards in Week 1, led by 75 yards on 19 carries by senior Damien Landon. The Trojans threw for 45 more, with QB Justice Chimics completing 6 of 10 passes attempts. He was intercepted twice.
Young said there is no mystery about what Troy brings to the table offensively.
“We’re going to see two backs in the backfield, and they are going to run it at us about four different ways,” said Young. “They’ll run a little option, then they’ll run a little power… we have to be able to at least hold our own at the line-of-scrimmage.”
WHEN ATHENS HAS THE BALL
The Wildcats ran for 278 yards, and added 101 more through the air. Senior Shayne Reid rushed for 144 yards and two TDs on 11 carries, and added a 26-yard TD reception, while junior QB Mason Lister completed 6 of 10 passes for 101 yards, and three TDs.
Young said the Trojans will rely on their big defensive line to free up their linebackers and defensive backfield to make plays.
“For the most part, Troy is a three-man front,” he said. “They put their big dudes up front to occupy space, and they let their athletes run to the football. They have some linebackers who play the game very well.
“We have to be prepared, and use the entire width of the field, and try to take our shots when we have them,” added Young.
ATHENS — Athens scored early and often to roll to a 44-6 season-opening victory over Hanover Area here Friday night.
The Wildcats scored on six of their first seven possessions in the non-league contest. Four touchdowns came through the air as they built a 30-6 halftime cushion.
"Anytime you can win a game like that, it's a good feeling," Athens coach Jack Young said. "We did a lot of good things and we have a lot of places to improve on, but we'll take it.
"A lot of people contributed on both sides of the ball."
Troy Pritchard's sack to force a Hanover punt set up the game's first score. Junior quarterback Mason Lister connected with Karter Rude on a 26-yard TD strike in the corner of the end zone with 8:01 left on the first-quarter clock. Shayne Reid's PAT kick made it 7-0.
The Hawks turned the ball over on downs on its next possession and Athens turned it into a a 5-yard scoring run by Caleb Nichols. Xavier Ankner blocked the PAT attempt, leaving Athens up, 13-0, with 2:06 to go in the period.
Hanover would punt again, but Lister was intercepted by Jake Zola on the next series and he would return it to the Athens 21. Three plays later, Zola pulled down an 18-yard TD pass from Christian Torres, but the kick was blocked and the Wildcat lead was 13-6 with 10:57 left in the half.
Athens took a bloop kickoff at its own 38 and Reid picked up 43 yards on two carries. Following an exchange of penalties and a pair of short runs by Chris Bathgate, Lister hit 6-foot-5 wide receiver JJ Babcock in the end zone and Reid's PAT kick pushed the lead to 20-6 with 8:01 remaining before intermission.
The Hawks turned the ball over on downs at their own 32, setting up Athens for another TD. This time, Lister connected with Reid on a 26-yard TD pass, and Reid's kick made it 27-6 with 4:41 left in the half.
On the Wildcats' next possession, Reid kicked a 29-yard field goal with 61 ticks on the first-half clock.
Jared Peterson picked off a Torres pass with 32 seconds left in the half and Lister took a knee to end the half with his team up, 30-6.
Athens' ability to take advantage of the run and pass possibilities played into its big lead.
"You've got to open things up," Young said. "We had a couple of penalties that killed us, which killed us on the kick off and gave them field position and I think we sulked a little bit. We felt sorry for ourselves."
The Wildcats were flagged seven times for 65 yards.
"That’s a football game right there," Young said. "You know, momentum, old momentum, and they took care of it and we just preached a little bit on the sideline about getting ourselves back where we belong and the kids turned it around themselves. We've got great senior leadership, great senior leadership."
Peterson opened the second half with a 41-yard kickoff return to the Hanover 35. Six plays later, Reid, who appeared to be stuffed at the line of scrimmage, squirted through the line for a 14-yard scoring run and his kick gave Athens a 37-6 cushion with 8:39 on the clock.
The Hawks responded with 64-yard Torres-to-Sean Dooner TD pass, but Dooner was flagged for pushing off and the ball came back to the Hanover 21.
The next several minutes saw a few Athens defensive gems. Brandon Jennings sacked Torres, teammate Ethan Wilcox crunched Jeremy Vega for a 5-yard-loss as he received the handoff, Pritchard received credit for a second sack when Torres bobbled the pigskin and took a knee, and Skylar Matthews added a sack.
Pritchard's initial sack of the night on Hanover's first possession was the Wildcats' first big play of the game and was notable as Pritchard wears the No. 13 jersey and the team has 13 on their helmets — a tribute to Brayden Taylor Murrelle, a Class of 2019 graduate who passed away earlier this year.
Jaden Wright scored Athens' final TD on a 5-yard run with 7:09 remaining in the game and Reid's kick made it a 44-6 final.
There were some mental mistakes which the Wildcats need to clean up if they hope to continue performing at a high level.
"Some things got chaotic," Young said. "At some of the skill positions, we're pretty deep. We feel good about that. Playing on a hot night ... it's pretty slimy out here and we knew cramping could be a situation, but we feel good with our skills because we've got so many. We were able to give them rest early in the game. We feel confident that we can do that in any situation. We feel good about that.
"We've just got to keep getting better.in the first half. We got a little sloppy and as we talked at halftime, some of that when we're substituting and not creating chaos, that's just as much on the coaches as the players, so we've got to improve there. We've got to get better in the mental part of the game."
Athens outgained Hanover, 379-50. Reid carried the rock 11 times for 144 yards and caught one pass for 26 more. Lister completed six of 10 pass attempt for 101 yards, three going for TDs. Babcock caught three passes for 33 yards.
The Wildcats received some nice efforts from Kolsen Keathley, who rushed for 47 yards on six carries, and Wright, who tacked on 43 on six runs.
Young likes what he saw in the opener, but also knows the areas which need improvement.
"I think we've got to get better on special teams, but we’ll take it, week one against an opponent we've had a couple dog fights with the last few years and they've got some tough kids," Young said. "They've got some linemen that can really play and I felt like, without looking at film, our offensive line played pretty well."
Athens hosts Troy, which had its season opener postponed, Friday evening.