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THE FINAL WORD: GOOD WINS FOR ATHENS, SAYRE FOOTBALL — ATHENS-SAYRE ROUND II ANYONE? (2020-10-01)

Athens posted a good road win at previously-unbeaten Wyalusing in Week 3, while Sayre evened its mak at 1-1 with a lopsided win over Cowanesque Valley.

The Wildcats used the tried-and-true method of beating a team with big-play capabilities like the Rams: a ball-control offense. Athens used a steady ground game that accounted for 164 rushing yards, and an efficient passing game that saw sophomore Mason Lister complete 15 of 25 passes for 184 yards.

While Lister, running backs sophomore Caleb Nichols and junior Shayne Reid, and junior wideout Karter Rude, who is quickly becoming a difference-maker, garnered the headlines in the win, it was the offensive line that was the key to victory.

The Athens defense also did its job, While it allowed two long TD plays to the potent Wyalusing offense, it was able to get off the field, and get the ball back to its offense, which played ‘keep away,’ including a 10-plus minute drive in the second half.

The Redskins used a coming-out party of sorts for sophomore QB Lucas Horton in the first half, and a dominating ground game in the second half to post a big win.

Horton finished the game with 15 completions in 21 pass attempts for 188 yards and one TD, and 45 yards and two TDs on eight carries. In the first half, Horton was 10 of 15 for 130 yards though the air, and ran for 46 yards and two TDs.

Oh, and defensively, Horton logged a first-half interception that set up the Redskins’ second TD of the game.

On the ground, Sayre rushed of 263 yards, including 164 in the second half. Junior David Northrop had the big game for the Redskins, toting the ball just eight times for 111 yards and one TD, and showing big-play ability in the process.

Junior Jake Bennett (52 yards and one TD on 14 carries) and sophomore Zach Garrity (45 yards on seven carries) displayed hard-nose running styles, good balance, and the ability to pick up the extra yard.

Again, the success was the result of the play of the Redskin offensive line.

That brings us back to Wyalusing, which will visit Lockhart Street Bowl Friday in Week 4 action.

Ram QB Mitchell Burke and wideout Kashawn Cameron, one of the best athletes in District 4, are threats to find pay dirt anytime they touch the ball, but the Wyalusing offensive and defensive lines will be tested again by the Redskins.

Despite losing to Athens in its season-opener, Sayre used its run game to keep the ball away from Athens. On the other side of the ball, the Redskins limited Athens to just 58 rushing yards.

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While we’re talking about Sayre and Athens football, I’ve proposed a rematch of the Valley rivals next week.

Athens is on the bye, while Sayre was scheduled to play Troy, which is out of action of at least two moe weeks. From what I’ve been told, it’s under consideration.

The bordering schools regularly played twice a year in the “old days,” and when I say “old days,” I mean “old days.”

The Valley rivals played twice a year every year from 1920 through 1936, which was the last time they played each other twice.

All I can say is these young student-athletes have lost so much since March, let them have something special, something no other living soul (there may be someone out there, but they would be 102 years old right now) can claim — playing in a Sayre-Athens game twice in a single season.

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The NTL has taken quite a hit with Troy and Canton athletics on the shelf, as well as the Towanda volleyball program.

Not only are Canton and Troy two of the best — if not the two best — football programs in the league, the Troy girls soccer team, which features nine Canton girls, and the Canton volleyball teams are among the best in the NTL.

On top of the Covid-19 concerns at Troy and Canton, injuries have hit the Sayre and North Penn-Mansfield girls soccer programs hard, and both teams were forced to postpone games today due to a shortage of players.

It’s been a whacked out fall season, and I don’t expect the remainder of the 2020-21 school year to be much different.

It will continue to be tough for anyone to plan too far ahead, considering the fact we don’t know fom day-to-day what could develop.

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A few thoughts on soccer and volleyball:

•  Senior Emma Roe has adjusted her game from a facilitator on the field for the Lady Wildcats to a finisher. She is still physical and aggressive, and as tough as nails, but now she’s looking to score, and with a vey strong leg, is dangerous from long distance.

•  Athens sophomore Ally Thoman has become a force in the midfield for the Lady Wildcats. She’s quick and aggressive, and makes things happen.

•  The loss of junior Roz Haney to a season-ending injury was a huge blow to the Lady Redskins, who I believe were poised for a bounce-back season, and a return to the District 4 playoffs.

A strong batch of freshman, led by Kendra Merrill and Caprice Haney, to go along with the elder Haney made for good reason to be optimistic.

•  The Athens boys are a little young up front, but their back four are very good. Even in its 2-1 loss to Wellsboro, the Athens defense allowed one goal on a PK, and another on a long direct kick that senior keeper Asher Ellis would make the play on nine times out of 10.

I’m looking forward to the Athens-Wellsboro rematch Oct. 13 at Alumni Stadium.

•  The Sayre boys won just three games in 2019. They have two wins already this season, and aside from last night’s 14-0 loss to Wellsboro, have been competitive in every game.

With senior Cody VanBenthuysen injured, Sayre is without a major playmaker. He’ll be back soon, and the Redskins will be even more dangerous.

•  The Athens volleyball team has all the pieces. They have two good floor generals in senior Kayleigh Miller and sophomore Jenny Ryan, two good hitters in Leah Liechty and Kylie Jayne, a versatile athlete in junior Taylor Walker, and an outstanding defensive libero in senior Taylor Field.

The postseason could be interesting, though. Athens and Shamokin are the only two Class AAA teams in District 4, so the Lady Wildcats may have to play though a sub-Regional with District 2, which includes Bewick, Greater Nanticoke, and North Pocono, which are all state-ranked.

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