[By JOE ELERSON, Athens Daily Review]

RED OAK – The Athens Hornets were looking to play homecoming spoiler Friday in their first road test of the year against a Class 5A opponent.

In the end, Red Oak (2-1) beat Athens, 28-20, to improve to 2-1 with their second straight victory. Red Oak defeated Arlington Heights in overtime last week.

“I was real thrilled with the way we fought,” Athens coach Paul Essary said. “Red Oak is a good Class 5A football team. They won one in overtime against Arlington Heights, which is picked to win their district. We almost took them to overtime, but it was just one play here and there. I am really excited about our future. I really believe our future is bright.”

The contest was Red Oak's homecoming game at Billy Goodloe Stadium.

Athens returns to action Friday as they travel to Waco Robinson to face the Rockets. The contest is homecoming for the Rockets with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

“I am excited because I know Robinson will have a big crowd,” Athens coach Paul Essary said. “We like to play and coach in front of a big crowd. They better be ready because we are going to be better next week. I don't know anything about them and have not seen them on film. I am just worried about the Athens Hornets right now.”

Essary said the coaches and players will watch the film early this week, and get ready for another homecoming showdown.

“You have to regroup and we will watch film, and see what we did good and exciting and things that we have to correct,” Essary said. “We got some things corrected last week that we did better on tonight. We will keep going and I am excited for the future.”

Last year, the Hawks doubled up the Hornets with a 42-21 victory at Bruce Field.

In the first half, Red Oak scored three touchdowns with the first coming at 6:13 in the first quarter. Carson Forbes found Hunter Smith with a 23-yard reception. Nicholas Alvarado booted the PAT good.

C.J. Palmer then scored his first of two rushing touchdowns with a five-yard run with 6:55 remaining in the second quarter.

Athens then countered with a 54-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Xavius Fulton with 3:50 remaining. Dakota Anderson booted the PAT good for the 14-7 deficit.

Palmer then countered with a 23-yard touchdown run with 2:51 left in the half. Palmer had 133 yards rushing on 11 carries in the first half.

Palmer finished the night with 218 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns.

“I knew he would be a good tough runner inside,” the coach said. “We have one guy on the defensive side that weighs over 200 pounds, and he probably weighs 225 pounds. He is a strong kid and they were having to throw bodies in there. Hats off to him because he kept running hard tonight.”

In the second half, Athens led off the scoring with a 10-yard run by Fulton with 7:13 remaining in the third quarter. Anderson booted the PAT good for the 21-14 deficit.

Red Oak answered with Palmer's third touchdown of the game on a three-yard run with 3:35 remaining. Alvarado booted the PAT good for the 28-14 lead.

Fulton finished the night 8 of 23 passing for 173 yards. He rushed for 97 yards on 21 carries.

“We got the passing game going tonight,” Essary said. “We got to running the football inside. I am excited for what we are going to be when we hit district. We have one more game to get better to get ready for district. If we continue to make strides on each side of the ball, we will be in good shape. It will be a good fun fight in district.”

Rhejhi Sherfield had three receptions for 84 yards, while freshman Nathan Sims had one receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown.