[By Joe Ellerson, Athens Daily Review]

VAN – The heavyweight prize fight lived up to the billing Friday night in the District 8-4A Division I opener between Athens and Van.

In the end, the state-ranked Van Vandals celebrated with a 35-32 win at Mel Fowler Field at Van Memorial Stadium.
“I thought we played a good ball game with a 35-32 finish against the No. 8-ranked team in the AP poll,” Athens coach Paul Essary said. “This should put us somewhere up there in the top 15 because we are a pretty good ball club.”
Athens' Logan Fuller jumps over two Van defenders on his way to breaking the Hornets' school record for career rushing yardage during Friday's game at Van Memorial Stadium. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)

With the loss, the Hornets are now 3-3 on the season and 0-1 in district play. The Hornets travel to Mabank while Van moves on to visit Crandall.

The big highlight of the game came late in the third quarter as junior running back Logan Fuller broke Athens' school career rushing record. Logan Fuller finished the game with 236 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries.

The record, which was held by Dick Watt in the 1962-64 season, stood at 2,671 yards. Fuller needed just 151 yards.

“You would rather be able to win the game and celebrate the record,” Essary said. “I am proud of him and proud of the team, but we will probably celebrate the record a little later.”

The game-winning touchdown came with 7:52 remaining in the game as Van's Aphonso Thomas found a crease down the right sideline. He was able to cut back inside and get past the Hornet defense for a 15-yard touchdown run.

Athens held a 17-14 lead at the intermission on an 11-yard touchdown by

Fuller and a 15-yard touchdown by Devin Hall. David Cedillo had a 30-yard field goal with 3:46 remaining in the first half.

Van scored 21 unanswered points. Quarterback Peter Maddox had a 45-yard touchdown pass to Layton Myers, a 23-yard pass to Andrew Platter and a 39-yard touchdown to Myers with 8:23 remaining in the game.

Fuller cut into the deficit with a 32-yard touchdown run with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter. He scored the Hornets' final touchdown with 11:22 remaining in regulation.

“Tonight, Van was a better team," Essary said. "I am proud of our effort and proud of the coaches work. Our goal is still right there ahead of us, which is to make the state playoffs.”

Van running back Alphonse Thomas scored the game-winning touchdown with 7:52 to play in the fourth quarter in Friday's 35-32 win against Athens. (Rob Graham, ETSN.fm)