After starting 0-2 with losses to Henderson and Diboll, Athens found its stride. The Hornets are on a four-game winning-streak with the latest victory coming over defending District 8-4A Division I champion, Van.

The five-point victory solidified Athens’ rise to district contenders.

“We matured a lot as a team after those two losses to start the season. We have eight underclassmen on the defensive side of the ball that never played varsity football until this season. We worked out a couple of positions on offense and our team really settled in and started making more plays,” Athens head coach Paul Essary said. “Henderson is a very good football team and we just made a lot of mistakes. Diboll was another good football team and we committed five turnovers and were still in that game.

“Playing good football teams makes you better and we wanted to be tested before district play. We were put in situations those first two games that really helped us in the last four games that all resulted in victories, especially against Van.”

Athens was up five points late in the game against Van and had to rely on their defense for a goal line stop as time was expiring. The Hornets held Van out of the end zone on third- and fourth-and-goal from the six-inch line to clinch the victory.

“That was a game of two heavyweights slugging it out and both of our defenses had a hard time stopping the other offense,” Essary said. “I honestly thought about letting Van score so we had time to get into field goal position, but our defensive coordinator talked me out of it and our guys stepped up. It was a great moment for us and our team.”

The Athens offense is led by senior Logan Fuller. The fullback had 280 yards rushing against Van to push him over 5,000 rushing yards for his career, which is a school record.

“Some college is going to get really lucky and grab a great player. We’ve had some colleges come by to look at him and I’m shocked he isn’t a higher-profile recruit because he’s as good as they come. People are starting to notice and he’ll get his opportunities to play somewhere,” Essary said. “He’s a complete team player. In fact, we put him on defense for that goal line stand against Van and he came up with the tackle on fourth down to win the game. He’ll do anything for our team to win and that’s all a coach wants out of any player, but especially out of arguably our best player.”