ATHENS — It was celebration time in Athens on Friday night after the Golden Eagles broke a 13-game losing streak to the Hartselle Tigers.
“We’re going to celebrate at the Waffle House,” Athens senior center Tommy White said. “I’m going for the cheesesteak hash browns, smothered and covered.”
White and his teammates ended the losing streak to rival Hartselle with a 28-19 victory at Larry McCoy Field at Golden Eagle Stadium.
The last time Athens beat Hartselle was Nov. 24, 2006, in the third round of the playoffs at Hartselle, 23-13. White was 4 years old. Athens head coach Cody Gross was the Golden Eagles’ offensive coordinator in that game. He returned to Athens as head coach in 2016.
“My first three years here, I didn’t talk about the streak,” Gross said. “I thought if we didn’t make a big deal out of it that we could relax and find a way to break it.
“This year I was determined to hammer them with it every day at practice. There’s no reason for a losing streak like that.”
Athens led 14-10 at halftime thanks to touchdown runs of five and 36 yards by junior quarterback Jordan Scott.
Hartselle began the second half with a drive that looked like it would allow the Tigers to take control of the game. The Tigers went from their 20 to the Athens 7, but a false start penalty inside the 5 forced Hartselle to settle for a 24-yard field goal to make it 14-13.
“That was just one of many mistakes we made tonight,” Hartselle coach Bo Culver said. “We overcame several of our mistakes, but not all of them.”
Athens answered with a six-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. It was all running plays with Julius Mayberry ending it on a 48-yard scoring run. That made it 21-13.
“That drive was a big way to answer Hartselle’s drive,” Gross said. “Our defense was gassed, and our offensive line stepped up big and took control of the game. Those guys don’t get enough recognition for the hard work they do.”
Joining White on the offensive line are Jack Rigsby, Isaiah Orr, A.J. Horton, Caden Shoulders and Josiah Trotman. Fullback Jack Tregoning also has a big role in the run blocking.
The Golden Eagles got their final touchdown of the night on the first play of the fourth quarter on Jaelen Cates’ five-yard run. That drive started at the Hartselle 31 following a run out of punt formation that failed to pick up the first down.
Hartselle’s touchdowns came on a 10-yard pass from Cal George to running back Brinten Barclay and one-yard run by George. Bryan Munoz kicked field goals of 28 and 24 yards.
“It’s great to break the streak, but the most important thing is we are 1-0 in our area,” Gross said. “That hasn’t happened around here in a long time.”
Next up are two big region tests for both teams. Athens (1-1, 1-0) travels to Decatur (0-3, 0-1). Hartselle (1-2, 0-1) hosts Muscle Shoals (3-0, 1-0).