If Athens Drive closes out Williams Stadium with a bang this year, it might have last season’s ups and downs to thank.
The Jaguars (4-7, 3-4) finished ahead of two playoff-bound teams in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference standings, but gave up eight interception or fumble returns for touchdowns along the way.
Seven of 11 opponents used the Jags’ generosity for an easy six points.
“That was our biggest downfall,” Athens coach Chris Martin said. “Green Hope won the conference; they beat us by two points and we gave them two touchdowns” on a fumble and interception return.
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“If we eliminate turnovers we’ll be a heck of a lot better team.”
If we eliminate turnovers we’ll be a heck of a lot better team.
Athens Drive football coach Chris Martin
Williams Stadium will not be used for football after this season. The school’s new stadium, deemed safer and more accessible for students, is under construction behind the school.
While Martin and others are excited about the future, the construction creates a few short-term problems. His team’s only practice field this summer has been the baseball stadium.
“We did a 7-on-7 and our kids were like, ‘We haven’t seen lines (on the field) all year,’” Martin said.
Athens’ solutions at quarterback and running back will set the tone for Williams Stadium’s last year of football.
Last seasons’ quarterback, Otumos Payemanu, moved to Minnesota so Tre Echols and senior David Parker, a wide receiver last year, are battling for the job.
Parker was 5-of-7 passing for 34 yards as a sophomore, but Echols has been accurate all summer. Accuracy means more than it used to for Martin.
Last year taught the team how quickly a game can change after a pick-six, and how enough of those can keep a team out of the playoffs by the slimmest of margins.
“I think it’s caused them to understand the importance of protecting the football,” Martin said. “It’s 100 percent on their mind right now.”
Offense: Zone-read spread.
Contributors: WR Jordan Johnson; WR Markees Dasher; WR/DB Peyton Smith; OL John Hughley; OL Ahmed Aljaberi; OL Turner Updegrave; DL Nate Gatling; DL Harry Lloyd; LB Wyatt Summers; DB Jalen McNish.
Expected team strength: Defensive line.
Question mark: Running back.
Player they'll miss the most: ATH Jackson Wetherby. What didn’t he do? Caught four touchdowns on offense, ran a punt back for touchdown, had four interceptions and 86 tackles and was team’s long snapper.
The main number: 8 – number of fumbles and interceptions opponents returned for touchdown in 2014.
The quote: “The number one thing on our minds is we win enough games to become playoff eligible. We beat two teams who went to the playoffs and we don’t? Our kids need to go to the playoffs,” Martin said.
Game to watch: Sept. 11 vs Apex. The Cougars will be improved, so can the Jags open the SWAC slate with a win?
Last five years
2014 – 4-7 (3-4)
2013 – 4-7 (2-5)
2012 – 5-7 (4-4), 4AA first round
2011 – 5-7 (4-4), 4AA first round
2010 – 5-6 (3-5)
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