Garrett Smallwood, Van Hold Off Late Athens Rally to Take 42-27 Win
ATHENS – The Van Vandals held off a strong charge from the Athens Hornets and came away with a 42-27 win Friday night at Bruce Field.
Van quarterback Garrett Smallwood was 16 of 28 for 263 yards with three touchdown passes – two to Andrew Platter. Smallwood also ran for a score as the Vandals moved to 6-1 on the season and 2-0 in District 15-3A play.
Athens, in losing its sixth consecutive game, fell to 1-6 and 0-2 in district play despite a career night from sophomore running back Devin Hall, who ran the ball 24 times for 267 yards and a pair of scores. Adam Stallings, who got his first carries of the season after missing the first five games due to injury, also had a touchdown run for the Hornets.
Athens scored a consecutive touchdowns in the third quarter – an 18-yarder from Hall and Stallings’ two-yard plunge – to cut Van’s lead to 34-27 with 3:08 on the clock. In the fourth quarter, Athens drove into Van territory before a pair of penalties killed the drive. Van got an 8-yard run from Hunter Hopkins to put the game out of reach. Hopkins also had an 81-yard kickoff return.
Smallwood helped Van out to a 26-13 lead at the half thanks to a hot first quarter. He went 4 of 4 on the Vandal’s first drive, which spanned 60 yards in eight plays and was capped off with his 22-yard scoring pass to Hunter Hopkins.
Van recovered a pooch kick on the ensuing kickoff, and Smallwood put his team up 12-0 thanks to a 24-yard touchdown run with 7:26 left in the opening quarter. Athens cut the lead to 12-10 on a 24-yard field goal from Jesse Durham and Devin Hall’s 25-yard run with 20 seconds left in the first, but Hopkins provided a nine-point cushion when he returned a kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown with six seconds to go before the second quarter. It marked the second consecutive week Athens has given up a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Smallwood’s second touchdown pass of the first half, from 33 yards out to Carson Rucker, pushed the lead to 26-13 at the half.