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Valley Sports Report
ATHENS — Coming off a 1-10 season, longtime Athens football coach Jack Young is hoping Friday’s win over arch-rival Sayre in the annual renewal of the Rusty Rail game will spark some confidence in the young Wildcat team.

“It’s a huge win.

“Winning, just like getting beat, is contagious,” said Young. “Hopefully, you start feeling good about yourself, and starting off on a positive note can only help us. We still need to gain a lot of confidence, and we need to get better in a lot of difference places.

“Getting the win is only going to help us moving forward,” he added. “We have a lot of young kids, and early confidence is always a good thing.”

Young gives a lot of credit to the veterans on the team.

“Once the schedule came out, our seniors took over the mentality of being focused and ready to go,” he said. “They were pumped, and took the attitude ‘what could be better than starting off against Sayre.’

"Handling the up-and-downs of a Friday night is one thing, but opening the season against your rivals is another thing completely,” he added.


The Wildcats drove deep into Sayre territory on their first possession, but turned the ball over inside the 5. After a special-teams mistake by the Redskins, Athens used a short scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

“We started off with a solid kick return, and then did the things we talked about in our offensive game plan,” said Young. “I thought we executed really well early Friday night.

“Then, we started shooting ourselves in the foot — too many penalties, and a couple of turnovers,” noted Young. “The penalties were killers, I can’t tell you how many second-and-20s we had. It really puts a lot of stress on your offense.

“As the game went on, we got a couple guys dinged up, and we got out of our rhythm offensively,” added Young.

The Wildcats managed just 58 yards against the stingy Redskin defense.

“We have to better up front,” said Young. “We have to run the ball better, we didn’t execute. I thought we executed up front in our run game better the week before against Wellsboro than we did Friday night.

“After watching the film, I think we need to execute our run-blocking better,” noted Young. “There were times we mis-communicated what we were doing up front, and then there were times we just screwed it up.

“We need to better at running the ball. We don’t want to be a team that has to throw the ball 35 times a game,” he added. “Of course, Sayre’s defense is pretty good, too. Two years in a row, they’ve had a real solid defense.”


Defensively, the Wildcats bent, but didn’t break.

"Sayre did a great job of playing keep away,” said Young. “They managed the time-of-possession, and put together a couple of time-consuming drives on us, and kept our offense off the field.

“We made plays when we needed them, and didn’t give up the big play,” noted Young. “The only pass they completed down field was late in the game.

“I thought we did a really good job of tackling. We got guys to the football and did a good job there," added Young.
Young was pleased with his defensive unit’s performance against Sayre’s passing game.

“I thought Connor (Sindoni) did a real nice job pressuring the quarterback,” said Young. “He’s not really a true defensive end, so we’re asking a lot out of him.

“Having Ben Pernaselli back helped a lot. You can tell he was a little rusty not having a whole lot of work over the summer or the preseason, but he made a couple of plays that were Ben Pernaselli-like.

“Our secondary has been playing well. We have a bunch of athletes there who have been working well together,” he added. “And they’re all under classmen — three juniors and two sophomores, so that’s going to be fun to watch.”

There is room for improvement, however, says Young.

“At the tackle spots, we have to do a better job. We can’t get trapped,” he said. “And, our linebacker play has to keep improving. It was a little better than the scrimmage, and it has to keep getting better.

“And, I felt like we kind of screwed up some execution up front on the line-of-scrimmage,” noted Young.

“But, overall defensively when you keep a talented team with a bunch of athletes to seven points, you’re doing something right,” added Young.


According to Young, special teams was a difference-maker Friday night.

“We’ve been working hard at special teams,” he said.

“I thought our kick return did a great job. We had a couple penalties on long returns, but at the same time they were still tone-setters.

“Obviously, I was real pleased with our one extra-point and our field goal,” said Young. “We knew Shayne (Reid) could kick, and he’s really been kicking well through the preseason. It was just a little awkward with him being out for a good part of the second half with leg cramps.

“I ran over to Shayne and said, ‘Can you kick a field goal,’ and he said ‘heck yeah I can,’ then he popped it right through.

“And, Troy Jennings did an outstanding job of snapping Friday night,” added Young. “He was a little up-and-down during the preseason, but he was spot-on during the week and on Friday night.”

Again, Young said there is room for improvement.

“Our kick-off team needs to get better. We need to do a little better with ball placement, and make sure our coverage is right. When we watch films, those are correctable.

"Our punt team has to do a little better job of protection up front, but (punter) Caleb (Nichols) is pretty solid with the football, and he’s only going to get better,” said Young.


GRADE FOR WEEK 1: “When you play a rivalry game in Week 1 and you scrap … that game could have gone a lot of different ways. I have to give my guys an A,” said Young.

“When you win a game like that it’s kind of like taking a final exam and there’s a curve, but we’re getting an A,” added Young. … GRADE: A.

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