[By Joe Elerson, Athens Daily Review]

RUSK – Athens defeated Rusk on Friday at Him Swink Field in Rusk, 35-34.

The Hornets scored the winning touchdown 13 seconds remaining. It came on a 21-yard pass from junior Chase Friederich to Rowdy Godwin. Joahan Mendez booted the PAT good.

“Wow, that is Hornet football right there,” Athens coach Paul Essary said. “You play had and physical and play together for four quarters. It took every second to win this game, and I am so proud of the guys and the coaches. I know I wasn't very good to live with this week. The guys and coaches responded, and I challenged them and they worked hard.”

Athens opened the scoring with 11:17 remaining in the first quarter on a 58-yard run by junior Jerquindon Taylor. Mendez booted the PAT good.

On the ensuing kickoff, Rusk blasted a long touchdown run by Joseph Francis. The Eagles had the PAT blocked, but recovered in and scored to take the 8-7 lead.

Rusk took a 16-7 lead on a 13-yard touchdown by Francis, who converted the two-point conversion.

Athens came back and scored with 37 seconds remaining in the first quarter on a 25-yard pass from Friederich to Andrew McBride for the 16-14 deficit.

Rusk took a 22-14 lead with 11:34 to go in the first half on a 58-yard touchdown pass. The Eagles missed the two-point conversion.

“They threw a couple of wrinkles in there, and it took us a little bit of time to adjust,” Essary said. “I was proud of our guys adjusting because we will have to be able to adjust down the road to different things out there. That was big for us to adjust and slow Rusk down. They are high powered and a great team, and they played 48-minutes as well also.”

With 3:33 remaining in the third quarter, Rusk (0-2) extended the lead to 28-14 as Francis scored on a 76-yard touchdown.

Athens opened the fourth quarter scoring as Nathan Sims scored on a 9-yard run for the 28-21 deficit.

The Hornets tied the game at 28 as Taylor scored his second touchdown on a 20-yard run.

Rusk took a 34-28 lead on a 1-yard run by Francis with 3:12 remaining in the game.

With 3:18 remaining in regulation, Athens senior Jalon Davis was carted off of the field. Essary said Davis is in good hands, but did not know the latest on his injury.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jalon,” Essary said. “Whenever he left, his oxygen level was good, and he was breathing. He got hit in the ribs and was hyperventilating earlier. We got people checking on him, and I feel like he will be fine. The guys wanted to go out and win this thing for Jalon. We are a family, and have faith that Jalon is going to be fine.”

Athens (1-1) returns to action Friday hosting the Fairfield Eagles at Bruce Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Fairfield defeated Brownsboro 55-28 at Bear Stadium in Brownsboro.

“Like I told the guys when we got off of the bus, I told them they need to play Hornet style football,” Essary said. “You play for 48-minutes, and I don't care what the scoreboard says and I will be proud of you. We need to play our football and play the way it is supposed to be played. There is a certain way to play the game of football. These guys did all of the things we needed to tonight.”