BY TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — Athens’ first win of the season at Cowanesque Valley Friday night was about getting back to the basics — on both sides of the ball, said longtime Wildcat coach Jack Young.
“In our week of practice last week, we focused on four running plays,” said Young. “Defensively, we were very fundamental at practice. We worked on all the fundamental things, and we’re going to keep doing that until we get better.”
The Wildcats amassed 385 yards, led by 224 yards and two TDs by speedy senior Damian Hudson. Young believes simplifying the offense was a big factor in the success.
“We wanted to get our offensive line some confidence, and maybe limit a little bit mentally what they had to be thinking about.
“We tried to simplify the running game,” said Young. “Our running game is, by word, pretty simple, but there’s a lot of responsibility on our offensive linemen, as far as how things are going to get blocked.
“One of things we did last week was to simplify things, limit what we do in terms of formations and plays,” added Young. “I believe we were pretty successful”
Most importantly, noted Young, was ball security.
“We didn’t turn the ball over, which was one of our goals,” he said. “I was pleased because when you start two weeks in a row turning the ball over on your first possession, you have to be better and we were.”
Young said there was improvement up front, but the offensive line needs to keep getting better.
“We need to continue to grow up front. We have to be better at the line-of-scrimmage,” he said. “This is a good bunch, I think they’ll keep working hard.
“I think once these guys realize what their high end is, people will start looking at us a little differently than they are right now,” added Young.
The longtime Wildcat mentor also believes there’s more to his offense than the big-play potential of Hudson and sophomore tailback Shayne Reid, who scored three TDs.
"We know what Damian (Hudson) and Shayne (Reid) are capable of,” said Young. “Caleb Nichols had a handful of carries Friday night, and has unbelievable potential.
“We also had two long TD passes, and another long one called back,” noted Young. “We have to eliminate those kinds of mistakes.
“Keegan Rude probably had 200 yards in receiving,” added Young. “Unfortunately, a big chunk of it was called back. He’s capable of making big plays, too. You get his big body out in open space, and he’s tough to defend.”
Young believes his team will continue to improve on defense as more of his young players see the field.
“We are playing more people the last couple weeks than we did the first week, and that’s only going to help us,” he said. “We’re trying to create some competition, to help everyone get better.”
Young also notes his entire defense has a great deal of room for improvement.
“We still have a long ways to go, and it all starts up front,” he said. “And, our young linebackers are learning every time out there on Friday night.
“We should be better in the secondary, and we need to get better than we are,” noted Young. “Giving up some of the plays we’ve given up shouldn’t happen with this group.
“Probably my biggest disappointment Friday night was, at times, we just did not tackle very well,” he added.
One area Young was satisfied with was special teams.
“We were solid on special teams.
“We totally revamped our kick return team last week,” he said. “Unfortunately, when you have guys like Damian Hudson and Shayne Reid deep, teams don’t kick to you. And, CV was not going to kick to us, they made that very clear right away.
“I was very pleased with the way the new kick return team handled what CV tried to do to us.
“We lost our long-snapper during the game, and it showed,” added Young. “We struggled with a couple of PATs. Now, we have to get our No. 2 snapper better. I think nerves got to him a little bit.”
GRADE: B. “We have a lot of room for improvement, but you have to get a least a B when you win a football game. This team needs to continue to gain confidence because I think that’s a big part of where we are right now,” said Young.
IN PHOTO: Athens coach Jack Young.
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