VAN - For one half of football Friday, the Athens Hornets gave state-ranked Van a scare.
In the second half, the Vandals responded as they left Van Memorial Stadium with a 56-38 victory over the Athens Hornets.
“I am very proud of our kids. If you were at the game, you saw a group of Hornets that played their hearts out,” Athens coach Paul Essary said. “We improved in some areas, and got some areas we have to improve. They exposed some weaknesses that we have got to corrected before next week. Overall, I am pleased with the effort and intensity, class and character that we showed.”
Van is the No. 9-ranked team in Class 3A in the Associated Press football poll. The Vandals are 6-0 and 2-0 in District 8-4A, Division I play.
The Athens Hornets are 2-4 overall. They are 1-0 in district play following a 35-7 victory over the Mabank Panthers last week.
Athens returns to action Friday hosting the Kaufman Lions for Pink Out Night. The Vandals return to action next week at Brownsboro.
In the loss to Brownsboro, Athens scored the opening touchdown of the game as Xavius Fulton capped off a nine minute drive with a five-yard run. The Hornets went for two as Jordan Mayhall scored for the 8-0 lead.
Van responded back as Garrett Moseley scored on a one-yard run. Calen McKinney booted the PAT good with 11:56 remaining in the first half.
Athens put together another strong drive as Fulton scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run. Dakota Anderson booted the PAT good for the 15-7 lead.
Van showed off its explosive passing game as Gus Brewer hauled in a 27-yard pass from Moseley to cut the deficit to 15-14 with 8:41 remaining.
But once again, Athens responded right back as Fulton found tight end Rowdy Godwin wide open for a 29-yard touchdown. The score gave Athens a 22-14 lead with 7:59 remaining.
Van then scored the final 14 points of the first half on two long pass plays. Brewer hauled in a 41-yard reception with 5:40 remaining. Elijah Rankine then wrapped up the scoring with a 60-yard reception for the 28-22 halftime lead.
Van had the first four touchdowns of the second half on a 71-yard reception from Moseley to Bray Doring, an 8-yard reception from Moseley to Doring, a 14-yard run by Moseley and a 67-yard reception from Liam Nelson to Brewer for the 56-22 lead.
Athens capped off the scoring with a 53-yard touchdown run by Andrew McBride and a two-yard run by Mayhall.
The Hornets had two-point conversions on a pass play from McBride to Gary Lyons, and a McBride run.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times in getting some penalties. Defensively, we gave up some big pass plays, and we can't do that,” Essary said. “We can't give those plays up, and the quarterback is good and made the right decision at times. The receivers ran great routes, and they are the No. 6-ranked team in the Harris Poll for a reason. But I think this showed we are a good ball club as well.
“With the overall team effort, we executed pretty good tonight. We have to get better before next week.”