MABANK — The Athens Hornets stopped a five-game losing streak with a 31-7 win over the Mabank Panthers on Friday night at Panther Stadium.

The win was the first in District 15-3A for the Hornets, who improved to 1-2 in district and 2-6 overall. Mabank’s playoff hopes took a major blow, with the Panthers falling to 0-3 and 1-7 overall.

The Hornets kept their playoff hopes alive on a night when Van and Canton both moved to 3-0 and all but put a lock on two of the district’s three playoff spots.

Athens broke the game open with 28 consecutive points after the Panthers tied the game at 7-7 in the second quarter following a two-yard run by sophomore Clay Gaddis. The Hornets went back ahead on Chris Jefferson’s 12-yard touchdown catch from Anthony Sanders, leaving Athens up at the half, 14-7.

Sanders ran into the end zone from five yards out less than four minutes into the third quarter to push the lead to 21-7, and Antwon Chilton snagged a 36-yard pass from Sanders in the end zone to make it 28-7.

Senior Jesse Durham wrapped up the scoring for Athens with a 24-yard field goal with 7:18 left in the game.

The Hornets handed the ball to nine backs, led by Daniel Salazar’s 77-yard night on 10 carries. Sanders ran for 73 yards on 12 carries, Raheem Miller had 60 yards on seven carries and Devin Hall ran for 51 yards on 14 carries. The Athens passing game also had one of its stronger nights of the season, with Jefferson catching four passes for 72 yards. Jesse Durham also had a 19-yard catch from Sanders.

Mabank relied on the legs of Gaddis for most of the evening. He carried the ball 24 times — including 10 on the Panthers’ 14-play scoring drive in the second quarter — and finished with 77 yards. Quarterback Rance Thorne ran six times for 25 yards.

Athens won despite losing three fumbles. The Hornets finished with 24 first downs and 306 yards rushing.

Mabank was held to 163 total yards, including 93 on the ground. The Panthers lost both of their fumbles.