The Hornets aren't exactly an East Texas blue blood program, but things are looking up on the western fringe of the area. Way up.

Athens will begin the season ranked No. 4 in the Class 4A Poll, and they're going to get the chance to show they belong on opening night with a big game against No. 9 Henderson.

Things have lined up very well for head coach Paul Essary's program. There's deep talent to work with in the running game on a run-oriented team, a strong offensive line in front of them and some skilled players on the defensive side of the ball as well.

The Hornets have three playmakers that stand out immediately.

Travon Fuller, a senior, is a Texas A&M defensive back commitment, senior offensive lineman Josh West has a nice shot at a college career and Logan Fuller will be running for his postgraduate life as well. They're all pieces of that running game.

The beauty to Athens' game is how they run their wing variations on offense.

Logan Fuller is a bowling ball back who will power through the holes his line open up, will try to make a move and often will bust it for a big gain. He's way more athletic than you'd think at 5-foot-7 and 210 pounds.

Has he ever been tackled for a loss? No one remembers an occasion.

Travon Fuller will take it on sweeps to add a jolt. More role playing running backs and two capable quarterbacks each add their own dynamic while taking a load off the Fullers.

The end result is Athens gets yardage and holds strong opposing offenses off the field.

As the Hornets came into their own last season, only a 10-0 regular season Van team was able to hold the offense back in district play. The final score was 35-32 -- Van's closest win of the season and perhaps its best game.

Essary's offense pounded Pittsburg in the first round of the playoffs and simply ran out of time to make a comeback drive against a remarkably similar and highly-regarded Kennedale team. Kennedale took the lead with 18 seconds to play.

Class 4A Division I, Region II was pretty wide open after the Hornets bowed out. Kennedale lost the next week by four points to eventual state runner-up Argyle.

In total, Athens brings back 10 starters from its area round team. All in the absolute most critical spots.

District 8-4A Division I looks like a two-team race between Athens and Van. Aside from Henderson, the Hornets will prep for the league run with good games against Hallsville, Rusk and Robinson.

2015 Athens Hornets Football Schedule

Aug. 28at HendersonL 35-20
Sept. 4DibollL 36-34
Sept. 11at HallsvilleW 32-13
Sept. 18RuskW 55-23
Sept. 25at RobinsonW 24-21
Oct. 2OPEN
Oct. 9*VanW 33-28
Oct. 16*MabankW 41-23
Oct. 23*at KaufmanL 25-22
Oct. 30*CrandallW 35-12
Nov. 6*at Wills PointW 42-14
Nov. 13(BI-DISTRICT): vs. PrincetonW 59-36
Nov. 20(AREA): vs. KennedaleL 47-26 Class 4A Preseason Poll