By Michael V. Hannigan/HC
Brownsboro beat Athens, 42-29, in Friday night’s season opener that was marred by mistakes, penalties and turnovers from both teams.
The win sends the Highway 31 Champions trophy east to reside in Brownsboro until the next time the two teams face off.
Here are 12 observations from the the game.
— It’s hard to really get the rivalry vibe going for the first game of the season. It seems to take the fans a couple of weeks to really get into the swing of things. But the folks from Brownsboro and Athens did a pretty good job Friday night with a nice crowd showing up to kick off the season.
— Both teams seemed to have some first-game jitters. They combined for a total of seven fumbles with four lost and 16 penalties for 140 yards. The fact that Athens lost three of those fumbles was key to the final score. Two of those turnovers were early in the game and gave Brownsboro great field position.
— Speaking of field position, the Bears worked with a short field all night long. Three times they started in Hornet territory, but they also started drives on their own 47, 46, 49 and 41.
— Watching the two teams Friday night, I couldn’t help the feeling of being in a time warp. They both use similar, classic offenses that huddle and feature fullbacks. This might be the only time all year that I watch a game where both teams huddle. I enjoyed the Bears and Hornets on offense. With so many teams going to the spread, the running concepts from Friday night become today’s innovation.
— Both teams had two rushers go over 100 yards on the night, according to my unofficial stats. For Brownsboro, Saul Williams had 153 and Dakota Harmon had 106. Athens had Nathan Sims with 167 yards and Rhejhi Sherfield 101.
— Saul Williams was a star for Brownsboro using his speed and elusiveness to make big plays. Williams had touchdown runs of 8, 23 and 53 yards, plus he returned a kickoff 98 yards for a score.
— On the Hornet sideline, Nathan Sims powered the Athens offense. The sophomore had a “now you see him, now you don’t” touchdown run of 52 yards in the second quarter that would have made Houdini proud. Sims took a handoff up the middle and disappeared into the scrum between the two lines only to pop out the other side a couple of seconds later to race to the end zone. While playing linebacker, he also had a tackle in the fourth quarter that caused fans on both sides to let out an audible “oooohhhh.”
— To continue the similarity theme, both teams returned kickoffs for touchdowns. As previously noted, Saul Williams took one back 98 for a score. For the Hornets, Rhejhi Sherfield returned a kickoff 78 yards for a TD. He also had a 41 yard touchdown run.
— There was a safety on the evening, with Brownsboro’s Seth Rozell tackling Justin Young in the end zone, but could there have been two? On the kickoff following Nathan Sims’ touchdown run, the ball rolled into the end zone with a Bears player and Hornet player getting there at seemingly the same time. Now I was at the top of the stands on the opposite side of the stadium so I couldn’t see exactly what happened, but it definitely looked like the Bear player got there first to cover the ball with the Hornet just a split second behind him. Athens Coach Paul Essary took a timeout to discuss the play with the officials who called the play a touchback. The coach obviously didn’t like the call.
— The Hornet passing game was disrupted by the Brownsboro pass rush all night and Athens quarterbacks were not able to complete a pass. However, two big pass interference calls against the Bears helped fuel Hornet scoring drives.
— Kudos to both bands! Ya’ll sounded amazing no matter which group was playing.
— And finally, a hat tip to stadium announcer Eugene Buford for adding some fun to the night. He let us know that Texas had more football games Friday night (375) than Connecticut will have all season this year — although I haven’t fact-checked that. He also described one third-and-long for Brownsboro as, “third and almost to Murchison.” But his best line came before opening kickoff when he announced, “If you will pretend to give me your attention for this public service announcement.” That particular line became my best tweet of the night.
The Athens Hornets will be on the road next Friday in Rusk. Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m.
Brownsboro travels to Fairfield next Friday.
Follow Michael on Twitter @mvhannigan