Hallsville's Dionte Johnson delivered the fatal blow to Athens in the Bobcats' 41-21 road win with a 92-yard punt return on the final play of the first half. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

[By Joe Elerson, Athens Daily Review]

ATHENS -- The Hornets ran into a tough Hallsville team Friday night in a 41-21 loss at Bruce Field.

With the loss, Athens is 1-2 in non-district play. The Bobcats moved to 2-1 overall.

Hallsville jumped out to a 28-14 lead at the half with three explosive plays against the Athens defense.

“Two or three of the explosive plays were ones that we could make the play,” Hornets head coach Paul Essary said. “We have to teach better tackling and we will work on that. That starts with me and we are going to put more emphasis on that.”

Hallsville running back Khalil Sneed opened the scoring with a 25-yard run on the opening possession. It capped off a 12-play, 64-yard drive with 5:19 remaining in the opening quarter.

Logan Fuller tied the game at 7-7 on a seven-yard run with 11:27 remaining in the first half.

Following Sneed's second touchdown of 55-yards, the Hornets went to Logan Fuller on five straight running plays. He cashed in from 19 yards out to tie the score at 14-14 with 8:32 remaining in the half.

Fuller rushed for 261 yards on 34 carries. He had 200 of those yards before halftime.

Athens' runners combined for 326 yards in the game.

The Hornets lost control of the game on the final play of the first half when Hallsville's Dionte Johnson returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown.

“I do not think they really stopped our offense, but we stopped ourselves with penalties in crucial situations,” Essary said. “That is hard to overcome against a tough team like Hallsville.”

Athens will visit Rusk next Friday. Hallsville will be idle next week and will kick off District 15-5A play at Marshall on Sept. 26.