[By Joe Elerson, Athens Daily Review]

ATHENS — It was a cruel game for the Athens Hornets on Friday against the Terrell Tigers at Bruce Field.

After a 3-yard touchdown run by sophomore JaQuaylon Bowman gave Athens a two-point lead with 36 seconds remaining, the Tigers found a way to hand Athens its third consecutive district loss with no time left on the clock.

Terrell senior kicker Bryan Lara nailed a 33-yard field goal for the 27-26 finale.

“The only thing that could have been better was for us to win the game,” Athens coach Paul Essary said. “Terrell is a quality team with quality coaches and they are ranked in the Harris Poll and was predicted to beat us by 24 points. These 23 Hornets came out here tonight and dealt with all of the adversity they have faced this week. They had something hit them in the face and they kept bouncing back. I am so proud of them and the coaching staff.”

Athens (1-7, 1-6) returns to action Friday on the road at Crandall. Kickoff for the game is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. The Pirates were open this week and hold a record of 2-5 and 0-3 in district play.

“The playoffs start next week with us, Crandall and Brownsboro,” Essary said. “We have to be ready because the playoffs start next week.”

On the final possession of the game for Terrell, the Tigers had a high snap as quarterback Tiyea Sanders had to scramble.

He found senior Elijah McQueen for a 37-yard pass to get it down to the Hornets 13-yard line.

Essary was forced to call two timeouts to try and ice the kicker.

Essary said even though the outcome hurts, he was proud of his team.

“Our guys fought hard and played hard,” he said. "They have come a long ways and we will continue to get better.”

Terrell opened the scoring on its first possession of the game as McQueen scored his first touchdown of the game on a five-yard touchdown run.

Lara booted the PAT good for the 7-0 lead with 5:23 remaining in the opening quarter.

On the second possession for Terrell, McQueen cashed in on a 2-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead with 1:16 remaining.

In the second quarter, Athens found the end zone behind strong running from senior Noah Bush. Bush powered his way in from four yards out for the 14-7 deficit with 6:16 remaining in the opening half.

Bush then cut the deficit to one at, 14-13, with a 3-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds remaining. The PAT by Marcelo Escalano was no good.

Essary said the Tigers gave the Hornets fits early in the game due to the speed of their athletes.

“Terrell is very fast and when they brought someone off the edge, they got there quick,” Essary said. “You can’t make mistakes against a team that has a lot of speed.”

On the opening possession of the first half for the Tigers, Terrell was able to drive the ball down to the Hornets 25-yard line.

Lara then gave the Tigers a 17-13 lead with 9:56 remaining as he nailed a 42-yard field goal.

The Hornets then put together a seven-minute drive that went 75 yards.

It was capped off with a 29-yard touchdown run by Bush for his third touchdown of the game.

The touchdown gave the Hornets a 20-17 lead as Escalano booted the PAT good.

With 1:01 remaining in the third quarter, Terrell regained the lead as Sander from Jarvis Walker on a 2-yard touchdown reception for the 24-20 lead.

The Hornets were led by Bush with 19 carries for 100 yards and three touchdowns. Bowman added 43 yards on 12 carries.

Essary said he was pleased to see the performances of those players.

“It was trying to keep people fresh and both of them work hard,” Essary said. “They are both team players and they will do what they can to help the team. Noah has to play defense also and all of our guys did a great job tonight.”

Junior Javiry Bowman saw his first varsity start in place of Xavius Fulton. Bowman was 3-of-4 passing for 77 yards. He rushed for 15 yards on six carries.

“He did a great job and he took some shots,” Essary said. “They got some good licks on him and I thought the offensive line did a good job protecting him.”

Senior Maalik Hall had 15 carries for 64 yards.

The leading receiver for the Hornets was freshman Rowdy Godwin with one catch for 42 yards. Jerquindon Taylor had two catches for 35 yards.

Sanders led Terrell with 10 carries for 101 yards. He was 7-of-12 passing for 130 yards with one touchdown.

Senior Zakabariun Porter had four receptions for 59 yards.

Essary said even with a 24-point underdog prediction against the Hornets by the Harris Ratings, the players found a way to come together as a team and fight for each other.

“We had 20 of our players who started and the other three were very involved in the kicking game,” Essary said. “I am tickled to death for them. I hope they realize that they are a good football team and we have to get better next week. There is no doubt that they improved. They have finally become a good football team. We have to continue to get better next week.”