By Ashley Graves
For The News Courier
Moulton — What a difference a season can make.
A year ago, postseason play was out of the picture for perennial playoff contender Athens — a first since 2007. But Friday night, the Golden Eagles made sure that stayed in the past, defeating Lawrence County 41-14 in the final Class 5A, Region 8 game of the season, and clinching the fourth and final playoff spot.
“It feels great to be back,” senior Johnnie Anderson said. “It starts everything we want to do. We can't make it to the championship game without making it to the playoffs. It's a big win for us tonight, and we’re glad we get to start a new season.”
Anderson set the tone for the game early, intercepting a Lawrence County pass at the Red Devils’ 23-yard line. He scored five plays later on a 1-yard run for the 7-0 lead. Anderson recovered a fumble at the Lawrence County 35 to set up his second touchdown of the night — an 18-yard run in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
Tarik Malone added to the lead with a 9-yard touchdown run, followed by a 9-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Stevie Farmer to William Mathews, to make it 34-0 at the half.
“We just came out, played to our level, and finished,” Anderson said.
Lawrence County spoiled the Golden Eagles' defensive shutout seconds before the fourth quarter when Daniel Griffin found the end zone on a 12-yard run. The Red Devils’ Nickolas McCarley scored with 2:09 remaining on a 13-yard run made possible by an Athens fumble.