[Joe Ellerson, Athens Daily Review]

MEXIA -- It was a tough night for the Athens Hornets in the season opener at Blackcat Field in Mexia.

When the final horn sounded, the Hornets left with a 29-7 loss to open the year at 0-1. The Hornets were predicted as 10-point favorites in the first Harris Ratings Poll of the season.

“We had some young mistakes," Athens coach Paul Essary said. "We had some guys going both ways that really had not had to go both ways that much and it was tough. I am sure they had some going both ways and that is not an excuse. We have to get ourselves in playing shape. That is my responsibility to get us in better shape and that will happen.”

The Hornets committed four first half turnovers and trailed by a score of 21-7 heading into the intermission.

In the first half, Mexia scored the game's opening touchdown as Josh Beachum blasted his way for an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown. Victor Garcia booted the PAT good with 6:50 remaining in the first quarter for the 7-0 lead.

Mexia was able to take a 15-0 lead when quarterback Jaylen Gipson scored on a 47-yard touchdown run with 1:33 remaining in the first quarter. The Blackcats converted their two-point conversion.

“I think the defense did well tonight," Essary said. "I knew that (Gipson) was going to be good enough to break a long one. I thought we contained him well and he did score one long touchdown. Other than that, I thought we played well on the defensive side. He is a heck of an athlete.”

Athens was able to cut into the lead in the second quarter. Junior quarterback Xavius Fulton powered his way in from 15 yards.

Dakota Anderson nailed the PAT with 10:35 remaining in the half for the 15-7 deficit.

The Blackcats added the final score of the first half with 8:25 remaining when Gipson found Davion Abor in the corner of the end zone on a 28-yard pass. The Blackcats missed failed on a two-point conversion for a 21-7 lead.

Mexia's final touchdown came with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter. Gipson powered his way in from a yard.

Athens was led in rushing by Fulton with 18 carries for 69 yards and the touchdown.

Senior running back Taylor Carson had eight carries for 69 yards, Maalik Hall had 14 carries for 52 yards, Jerquindon Taylor had four carries for 32 yards and Jaquaylon Bowman had five carries for 16 yards.

Andrew McBride had one carry for five yards. Braylon Woods had three carries for two yards.

Athens will once again be on the road next week at Fairfield.

“We have some guys who, this is their first night under the Friday night lights," Essary said. "You can't explain it to them and they have to experience it. Now that they have experienced it, they will be better next week. We will coach them up and make sure that they are better and get better every day and every week.”