By Jonathan Deal
EAST LIMESTONE —
That’s how Johnnie Anderson described Friday night’s 34-13 win over rivals East Limestone.
The four-year starter and captain led an Athens defense that shut down an explosive East Limestone offense averaging 31 points per game. Athens’ limited the Indians to negative yards in the first half and 115 for the game.
While its aggressive defense lived in the East Limestone backfield, Athens offense thrived on big plays. AHS found the end zone on scoring plays of 26, 75 and 52 yards in the first half to take 20-0 lead at the break.
Stevie Farmer threw four touchdown passes and Tarik Malone added a long touchdown run to the lead the explosive attack for Athens.
After putting together long touchdown drives on their first two scores, the Golden Eagles needed just one play to find the end zone on their next three touchdowns.
William Mathews opened the scoring for Athens when he caught an over-the-shoulder catch from Farmer on a second and 17 play from the 26 yard-line. Following an East Limestone three-and-out to start the second quarter, Farmer hit Terrance Watkins on a 75-yard touchdown pass when AHS was facing third and 25.
Athens didn’t wait for second or third and long to score on its next possession.
On its first play from scrimmage following another East Limestone punt, Harper Ward made an acrobatic catch in double coverage along the Indians sideline, kept his balance and scampered 52 yards for a score.
East Limestone had no answer for the Athens defense in the first half. The Golden Eagles stuffed the run and gave East Limestone quarterback Brick Pugh no time to throw the football.
Athens sacked Pugh seven times for the game, led by a pair of sacks from seniors Brian Sulcer and D.J. Pride. Sulcer also blocked a punt at the end of the third quarter to set up Athens’ final score.
To their credit, the Indians put together a solid drive to begin the second half, caped by a 28-yard touchdown pass from Pugh to Jordon Gandy. In triple coverage, Gandy jumped over an Athens defender at the goal line and fell into the end zone to pull East within two scores.
Malone made sure that was as close as the East Limstone would come.
The junior running back ripped off a 59-yard touchdown run to for another 1-play scoring drive to make it 27-7 Athens. Sulcer blocked an East Limestone punt at the 10-yard line on the Indians’ next drive that set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Farmer to Watkins.
Farmer completed 12 of 21 pass attempts for 192 yards and four touchdowns while Malone racked up 109 yards on 11 carries and one score. Watkins led all receivers with 85 yards on two catches, both for touchdowns.
Pugh was 11 for 21 passing for 130 yards and a touchdown. He also added a rushing touchdown. Dhalquille Eichelberger carried the ball 12 times for 73 yards. Gandy had four catches for 52 yards and a score.
Athens’ playoff hopes hinge on the next two weeks, beginning with a home game against Russellville Friday. East Limestone must travel to 5A No. 4 Muscle Shoals for another tough Region 8 game next week.