By Joe Elerson (Athens Daily Review)
The Athens Hornets opened up the newly renovated Bruce Field era with a 6-0 victory over Mexia Friday in the season opener.
Athens (1-0) held Mexia out of the end zone with no time remaining as sophomore Rowdy Godwin tackled Mexia quarterback Travion Carter at the Hornets five-yard line.
“The defense made the tackle on that last play," Athens coach Paul Essary said. "Everybody had to do their job, and I think it was a great effort on all of their parts. They had no timeouts, and we knew that. I almost burned one, but I knew that would give them a chance. We believed in the game plan, and they came through.”
This was just the second time the Hornets have won the season opener in the nine-year coaching career of Paul Essary at Athens.
“I don't remember the last time we had a shutout,” Essary said. “For some reason, we have been snake bit. The only other time we won the first game here was in 2013, and that group was a pretty good ball club. This is a major milestone, and I am proud of these guys.”
The Hornets lone touchdown of the game came with 2:44 remaining as sophomore Jerquindon Taylor scored from six-yards out. The Hornets went for two, but failed on the conversion.The drive capped off a 12-play, 69-yard drive.
Taylor finished the night with 17 carries for 67 yards and one TD.
In the first half, the Hornets offense put up 149 yards, compared to 19 for the Blackcats.
Essary credited the defense with solid play throughout the contest.
“The defense was flying around and playing hard. Mexia has some great athletes over there,” Essary said. “They can run, and it scared me to death. I am proud of the players and coaches, who had a great game plan.”
Mexia's best drive prior to the final drive had them at the Hornets 27 yard line. The Blackcats went for it on fourth down and nine, but freshman Nathan Sims sacked Carter to end the drive.
Essary said following a 2-8 season last year, this was a big win for the Hornets to open up the season.
“This is the first win coming out of the House of Champions,” Essary said. “Our field house in my mind, and the team's mind is built because of championships that were won before them. We call it the house that champions built. They wanted to win it not only for themselves, but for the guys who came before them and won those championships.”
Senior quarterback Xavius Fulton finished the night 6-of-14 passing for 89 yards and one interception. He rushed for 43 yards on 15 carries.
Junior JaQuaylon Bowman had two receptions for 37 yards, while Jordan Mayhall had two catches for 25 yards.
Mexia was held to 198 yards of offense as Carter was 9-of-21 passing for 104 yards. His top target was senior Davion Carter with seven receptions for 98 yards. Jadarian Smith had 14 carries for 84 yards for the Blackcats.
“A win is a win. Our motto is Together We Can, and it took everything we could do,” Essary said. “We had to do a good job on special teams and offense with keeping the clock running when we needed to. The defense did a great job of competing and making big plays and finishing it out. They wanted to win it for the community and the ones who got it built. This was also the first win on this field.”
Athens returns to action Friday at Bruce Field against the Fairfield Eagles.

More From East Texas Sports Network