[By Joe Elerson, Athens Daily Review]

ATHENS -- The Athens Hornets continue to roll along in the race for the District 8-4A Division I crown with a 41-23 homecoming victory over the Mabank Panthers on Friday at Bruce Field.

“It is big to win any game. To win against Mabank, is big because it was the next game on the schedule,” Athens coach Paul Essary said. “We have six excellent teams in this district.”

With the victory, the Hornets have won five straight games to improve to 5-2 overall and 2-0 in the district race.

“This district is wide open and nobody has a playoff spot clinched or a district championship clinched,” Essary said. “It may not be clinched until the last game of district. What is good is that we control everything that is in our hands right now. That is the most important thing of being 2-0 in district.”

Mabank fell to 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the district race. The Panthers host the Van Vandals next week.

The Hornets opened the scoring with 9:49 remaining in the first quarter as Logan Fuller powered his way in from 4 yards out. Oscar Rios booted the PAT good for the 7-0 lead.

Mabank countered with 2:08 remaining as Trent Cantrell scored from 4 yards out. The Panthers missed the extra point for a 7-6 deficit.

In the second quarter, Athens senior Travon Fuller scored his first touchdown of the game with 9:41 remaining. Fuller went in from 13 yards out but the Hornets missed the PAT for a 13-6 lead.

Travon Fuller had 11 carries for 200 yards rushing on the night.

With 30 seconds remaining in the half, Logan Fuller blasted his way in from 2 yards out for the 20-6 halftime lead.

Essary said he knew Mabank would bring the fight to the Hornets.

“I told them it was going to be a tough game. I did not expect anything less out of coach (Mikey) Thompson and those guys over there,” Essary said. “I watched them on film and they are playing hard and they are doing what they need to do to give their kids a chance to win.”

In the second half, Mabank marched the ball down the field on the opening possession as Devin Schultz booted a 33-yard field goal for a 20-9 deficit.

Travon Fuller the found a hole around the right side of the Mabank defense for a 91-yard touchdown run with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter.

The Panthers then played some trickery as Clay Carson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Blayne Rowe for the 27-16 deficit with 4:01 remaining in the third.

Brandon Boyd scored his first of two touchdown runs with 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Boyd found a seam and rumbled 40-yards to paydirt for the 34-16 Athens lead.

With just over a minute gone in the fourth quarter, Mabank quarterback Adrian Higginbotham powered his way in from a yard out to cut the deficit to 34-23.

The final score of the contest came with 8:13 remaining as Boyd scored from 17-yards out for the 41-23 final.

“Our kids played well and they were well coached,” Essary said. “We have to clean up some mistakes on some penalties and stuff of that nature. We will work on that next week.”

Logan Fuller had 18 carries for 141 yards rushing. He was 3-of-4 passing for 46 yards.

Carson led Mabank with 22 carries for 94 yards rushing. Higginbotham had 10 carries for 85 yards rushing for the Panthers.