FOOTBALL: Athens gains first win of season by downing West Bloomfield
WEST BLOOMFIELD — A few changes in the lineup and some rediscovered confidence has helped Troy Athens pull a reverse on the football field.
The Red Hawks finally recorded their first win of the season Friday in a 24-16 OAA Red Division triumph over host West Bloomfield.
Athens (1-4, 1-3) never trailed, going up 7-0 at the half, 17-0 through three quarters and 24-0 before West Bloomfield made a fourth-quarter last-ditch effort with a pair of late touchdown drives.
“It’s nice to finally get that first ‘W’,” offered Athens coach Josh Heppner. “We’re still really young and we have a lot of guys banged up. That’s going to happen when you have a lot of guys playing on both sides of the football. I also think that we can still be a good football team and it’s still possible that we can win the rest of our games and make the playoffs. We don’t have any room for error. We have to win out. The next few weeks will be the telling story for us, with (Rochester) Stoney Creek, Rochester and Troy up the next three weeks, plus the OAA crossover. We have to get the job done.”
Against West Bloomfield (0-5, 0-4), junior quarterback Jake Nelson got the Red Hawks untracked when he scored on a 1-yard plunge with 3:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Brandon Elliott, who made all three extra point attempts, drilled a 35-yard field goal for a 10-0 advantage with 9:21 left in the third stanza. Later in the quarter, Sam Haskell scored on a 1-yard run, ending a long 15-play drive that spanned 77 yards and ended with only 12 ticks left in the frame.
In the fourth quarter, Craig Bazin scored on a 5-yard run to put Athens in control at 24-0.
“We moved some guys around and it has helped,” said Heppner. “Jake Nelson was moved into the starting role at quarterback and he has done a nice job. We moved James Ortmann over to free safety and he had one of the best games from the safety position that we’ve had since I’ve been coach here.
“The one thing I firmly believe is if we can win our remaining games, we can still make the playoffs at 5-4,” offered Heppner. “I thought we played well in the first half against Clarkston and Lake Orion and then we ran out of gas and gave up a lot of points. I look at the three of the teams we lost to. Warren Mott is rolling people. Lake Orion is rolling people and Clarkston is undefeated. Those are three very good teams. I’m hoping that we can put ourselves in a position to win out and be an at-large playoff team.”
The Lakers spoiled the shutout with 4:24 to go when Maurice King scored on a 17-yard scamper.
J.J. Bloom hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Terrance Jackson with 1:21 left for West Bloomfield, which converted the conversion runs on the two late touchdown drives, both by King.
The Lakers outgained Athens 247-187. King had 141 yards on 13 rushes. Jackson was 7-for-17 for 58 passing yards and Ben Unaegbu had three catches for 31 yards or West Bloomfield. Nelson had 72 yards on 16 carries and passed for 36 yards on the night. Sam Haskell added 40 yards on 14 carries for Athens. Ivan Kharchenko led the Red Hawks with 13 tackles, while Ortmann and Bazin recorded six tackles apiece.
(Dan Stickradt is Senior Editor for Digital Daily www.northoaklandsports.com and The Real Deal sports and coupons magazine, as well as a freelance writer for multiple media outlets, including State Champs! High School Sports Show website. He is a 20-year veteran sports journalist based in Oakland County, Mich. He can be reached by email at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.)