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Athens Seeks 5-0 Start When Hornets Host Palestine on Friday

Athens LB K.J. Cumby. (© Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Palestine Wildcats (3-1)

vs.

Athens Hornets (4-0)

7:30 p.m. Friday

Bruce Field, Athens

 

Coaches
  • Palestine: Lance Angel
  • Athens: Paul Essary

 

Last week

 

Next week
  • Palestine: vs. Pittsburg
  • Athens: idle

 

Playmakers

Palestine

  • ATH Jarrell Owens, Sr., 6-3, 245 (committed to TCU; 14 carries, 95 yards, 1 TD; 10 catches, 157 yards, 1 TD; 11 tackles, 2 for loss, 2 forced fumbles)
  • RB Ben Luckett, Sr., 6-0, 195 (91 carries, 627 yards, 7 TDs; 3 catches, 60 yards)
  • QB Fabian “Gee” Clark, Jr., 6-0, 165 (46 of 77, 719 yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs; 28 carries, 129 yards, 3 TDs)
  • OL Brian Thlang, Sr., 6-2, 285 (committed to ULM)
  • OL Eric Gonzales, Sr., 6-0, 295
  • LB Brian Gummelt, Sr., 5-9, 175 (33 tackles, 9 for loss, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble)

 

Athens

  • LB Chris Jefferson, Sr., 6-2, 200 (committed to SMU)
  • LB K.J. Cumby, Sr., 6-1, 215
  • FB Logan Fuller, Soph.
  • TB Devin Hall, Jr., 5-9, 170
  • QB Anthony Sanders, Sr., 6-0, 185
  • TE/DE Nic Fincher, Sr., 6-2, 245

 

Just the facts
  • Palestine has lost five games in the last two seasons, two to Chapel Hill — 34-14 in 2012 and last week’s 62-27 loss.
  • The Wildcats, which had allowed 25 points per game the first three weeks, were hit up for 62 points and more than 650 total yards of offense last week.
  • The road doesn’t get any easier for Palestine, whose final two non-district opponents — Athens and Pittsburg — are a combined 6-1.
  • The combined record of the teams Palestine has beaten this season — Waco La Vega, Jacksonville and Kaufman — is 3-9.
  • Athens is 4-0 for the first time since the 1996 season.
  • The Hornets are averaging 367 rushing yards per game over the last three weeks, having outscored those three opponents by a combined score of 132-7.
  • With one more victory, Athens will surpass last season’s win total.

 

Key matchup: Athens running game vs. Palestine defensive front. After allowing more than 500 rushing yards to Chapel Hill last week, the Palestine rush defense figures to be challenged once again Friday night at Athens. The Hornets, with their backfield tandem of tailback Devin Hall and fullback Logan Fuller, have shredded opposing defenses on the ground all season. Athens has thoroughly dominated is last three opponents, averaging 44 points per game while going for 367 rushing yards a pop.

The Hornets’ Wing-T base formation, when executed properly, can be among the most difficult offensive schemes to prepare for. It becomes doubly tough for Palestine this week after the Wildcats’ defense was gashed by Chapel Hill’s uptempo, spread attack. Athens doesn’t move at nearly the pace the Bulldogs do, and the Hornets rarely take to the air. They rely on winning their one-on-one matchups up front and letting their talented collection of backs do the rest.

Palestine’s defense had performed fairly well through three weeks, but it took a major step back last week. The Wildcats, which have an explosive offense, must do a better job of limiting Athens from dictating tempo with its running game. Palestine can score pretty quickly when it has the ball, so the more snaps the Wildcats get while on offense should increase their chances of victory. But in order for that to happen, Palestine’s defense needs to at least contain Athens’ ground game and get off the field on third down.

Don’t be surprised if: Athens and Palestine engage in a much more competitive game than 2012′s 49-0 Palestine win. The Hornets have tons of confidence coming in with their first 4-0 start in 17 years and knowing how badly Palestine struggled to stop the run last week. It’s gut-check time for Palestine, which should be eager to get the bitter taste of last week’s humbling loss out of their mouth. We should be find out a lot about both teams after Friday night. A Palestine win could help the Wildcats right the ship, improving confidence for a run at the District 19-3A title. If Athens wins, the Hornets will be 5-0 with an impressive victory over a quality team in Palestine as they head into their bye week.

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