By Jonathan Deal
Three words are echoed across the practice field at Athens and inside Golden Eagle Stadium on Friday nights in the fall.
“Do your job.”
It’s a phrase the coaching staff uses repeatedly at AHS. Although it may sound like coach-speak, it’s paying dividends on the field for Athens this season.
“I started saying that way back when I was calling defense at Decatur,” said Athens head coach Allen Creasy. “We played a base defense, and it was crucial that everyone did their job. And that’s kind of where it all started.
“Now we’re a much more pressure-based defense. But we’ve been able to maintain the philosophy of fundamentals. Doing your individual responsibility is still the most important thing.”
Sticking to the fundamentals and “doing your job” has worked for Athens, especially on defense. The Golden Eagles recorded their fourth shut-out of the season last week and their first in the playoffs since 1976.
It’s a defense that has carried Athens to the third-round round of the playoffs. The AHS defense has forced 40 turnovers this season and scored three touchdowns over the past two weeks.
For senior safety and captain Johnnie Anderson, the phrase “do your job” is nothing new.
“I don’t how many times I’ve heard it,” said Anderson. “Coach Creasy always preaches it. If you do your job, nine times out of 10, you make a play. Do your job, execute the play, make a tackle – it’s both offense and defense.”
Anderson takes the phrase literally, leading by example. The senior has scored six touchdowns on offense and forced multiple turnovers on defense this season, including two last week. Anderson leads an opportunistic defense that could hold the key to beating Muscle Shoals tonight in a third-round playoff game.
“We know that we can stop them,” said Anderson. “We feel like if we can stop the run and the reads that they make, if everybody does their job and doesn’t get caught up looking at the ball and they have to beat us throwing, we’re confident we can stop them.”
Muscle Shoals won the regular season game between these teams 35-0 back on Sept. 20, but that was a different Athens team. AHS had just come off a deflating loss to rival Hartselle, while Muscle Shoals entered with three straight shut-outs to start the season.
This time, it’s Athens that enters J.F. Moore Stadium with a four-game winning streak, including two shutouts.
“Defensively, confidence is everything,” said Creasy. “When you’re confident, you play faster, you hit harder. It’s a huge advantage to you.”
While Creasy was answering a question about Muscle Shoals, the same can be said for his defense that ranks among the best in North Alabama. In the early-season loss to Muscle Shoals, Athens’ defense held the Trojans to less than 200 yards and two touchdowns.
“There are a lot of things we draw from that game positively, even though the score was a little lopsided in the end,” said Creasy. “We’re all motivated to prove we are a better team than the last time we played them. We weren’t the team that we showed on that Friday night.”