For The News Courier
Josh Walker and B.J. Watkins combined for more than 200 yards as Austin overwhelmed Athens 34-0 Friday night at Golden Eagle stadium. Walker did most of this damage in the first half as the Black Bears jumped out to a 20-0 lead and never looked back.
It was the third consecutive loss for Athens (1-4, 1-2). The Golden Eagles have played 5A No. 1 Hartselle, 5A No. 2 Muscle Shoals and 6A No. 6 Austin over the past three weeks.
“Hopefully it will prepare us for the rest of the season,” said Athens head coach Allen Creasy. “But we are not doing what we’re suppose to do right now. We’ve got to get better.”
Austin used a past-paced, no huddle, balanced attack to dissect the Athens defense. The visitors scored on their first drive of the game when quarterback Chris Sparkman punched it from fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. The score capped a methodical 15-play drive in which Austin converted two fourth down plays.
“They execute really well,” said Athens safety Johnnie Anderson. “They executed better than us. It all comes down to us doing our jobs, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Athens best field position of the game came mid way through the second quarter when Robert Schrimsher picked off a Sparkman pass at midfield and returned it to the Black Bears’ 36-yard line. Three plays later and Schrimsher was back on the field to punt from the 47. The sophomore punted 11 times for a 27.8-yard average.
Despite the offense’s inability to move the football, the Athens defense held strong until the final three minutes of the half. Sparkman connected with Malique Elliott on a 13-yard touchdown to make it 13-0 and Watkins scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with just over a minute to play give Austin a three score cushion entering halftime.
Athens held Austin scoreless in the third quarter, but consecutive three-and-outs kept Athens from getting back into the game. The Golden Eagles did receive a boost from running back Jonathan Pruitt who picked up Athens largest gain of the night on a 36-yard run in the third quarter. Pruitt led Athens with four carries for 55 yards.
Athens defensive lineman Brian Sulcer and Paul Chambers each sacked Sparkman twice to keep the game close, but it was not enough as Sparkman connected with Elliott again to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter. Watkins scored Austin’s other touchdown on a 14-yard scamper with 4:489 remaining in the game.
Sparkman finished the game completing 17-of-28 pass attempts for 178 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. After quarterback Harper Ward left the game for Athens in the first quarter with a knee injury, junior William Mathews finished the game completing five passes for 25 yards and an interception on a tipped ball late in the game.
Athens will host East Limestone (2-3, 1-2) next week in a pivotal Class 5A Region 8 contest.