[By Joe Elerson, Athens Daily Review]

HENDERSON -- The Athens Hornets opened up the 2015 season with a disappointing finish in a 35-20 loss to the Henderson Lions on Friday.

“I am proud of our football team and they played hard tonight. We had a lot of youngsters in their and they did too,” Athens coach Paul Essary said. “They made mistakes and we made some mistakes and our cost us a little more.”

In last year's opener, the Hornets lost to Henderson 36-20 at Athens.

With the loss, the Hornets are 0-1 on the young season. Athens returns to action Friday as they host Diboll at Bruce Field.

Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Henderson wrapped up the game with 376 yards of total offense against a young Hornets defense. They were led by LaKendrick Vanzandt with 101 yards rushing on 19 carries with a touchdown.

In the first quarter, the Lions struck first with a 35-yard touchdown from Trestan Ebner with 8:09 remaining in the quarter. Henderson missed the extra point for the 6-0 lead.

Athens was able to take the lead with 5:34 remaining as lineman Chad Walker recovered a fumble for the 10-yard touchdown run. Senior Christian Chairez booted the PAT good for the 7-6 lead.

Henderson regained the lead as Vanzandt scored on a 56-yard pass completion from sophomore quarterback Matthew Childers for the 14-7 lead. Vanzandt ran in the two point conversion.

With 4:01 remaining in the opening quarter, Vanzandt scored his second touchdown on a 10-yard run for the 21-7 lead. Julio Cervantes booted the PAT good.

Athens cut the deficit to 21-14 as senior running back Logan Fuller cashed in from eight yards out with 4:07 remaining in the opening half.

Fuller finished the game with 34 carries for 174 yards and two touchdowns.

“I am proud of Logan and he works hard,” Essary said. “He couldn't care less about the 170 and could get seven yards if it helped the team to win the game.”

On the opening possession of the third quarter, Fuller scored again on a one-yard plunge for the 21-20 lead.

Henderson scored the final 14 points of the game as Childers had two rushing touchdowns. His first one care with 3:41 remaining on a 10-yard run to extend the score to 29-20. Ebner ran in the two-point conversion.

Essary said it was tough seeing how talented Ebner and Vanzandt were in the ball game.

“They had some big plays and No. 8 and No. 9 are some good ball players,” Essary said. “They are good athletes and our team got a good test tonight.”

The final score of the game came with 2:40 remaining in the fourth quarter as Childers barrelled his way in from two-yards out for the 35-20 finale.

“It was two good football teams battling it out. We are going to be okay and we have to continue getting better,” Essary said. “We have to cut out the mistakes. We have to capitalize on defense and cut out the big plays. It is not about us missing tackles and some of the times they made us miss tonight.”