Hebron Christian Academyis Xavier Railey (21) rushes past Athens Christianis Adrian London (44) Friday at Hebron. This was the first football game on the Hebron campus after playing previously at other high school stadiums.
DACULA -- Athens Christian used a punishing rushing attack and broke open the game in the second half as the Golden Eagles defeated Hebron Christian 34-8 Friday night. The game was the first one played on the Dacula private school's campus football stadium.
"I looked up at the clock in the third quarter and we didn't get the ball until 5:44 was left," Lions coach Sal Battaglia said of the crucial sequence to open the second half. "We have a lot of young guys and they really care. That is what is going to help us build this progam."
The teams traded punts in the first quarter until Athens Christian (1-2) took over on its 48 with just over six minutes remaining. Hebron's defense held, forcing Athens into a fourth-and-two on the Lions' 44. After a timeout by the Golden Eagles, Travis Wildgoose burst through the middle of the Hebron line, broke two tackles and scored. Caleb Shealy's PAT hit the left upright and bounced back, no good. With 4:23 left in the opening quarter Athens Christian led 6-0.
Hebron Christian's (0-3) offense was stuck in neutral most of the first half as they gained only 72 yards, 47 of which came on the final play of the half when the Lion's Tyler Matthews deflected a long pass from Lew Stephens to himself and made it to the Golden Eagles 13 as the horn sounded. The young Lions defense hung tough and kept the Golden Eagles' offense from adding to the lead as the 6-0 score held headining into halftime.
During halftime, Hebron Christian honored its state baseball champions from last spring, the first in school history as they presented the players, coaches and managers with their rings. All the good karma didn't help the Lions football squad however.
The turning point came in the opening two series of the second half. The Golden Eagles fumbled on their first play from their own 49 and it looked like Hebron recovered. However the officials ruled that two players had the ball and Athens Christian retained possession. Six plays later, Malik Sims bulled in from the 10 and Shealy's extra point extended the lead to 13-0 with 8:12 left.
Athens Christian then recovered an onsides kick on the Hebron 41. Five plays later, Sims scored from the 7 and Shealey's kick extended the advantage to 20-0.
The overflow home crowd got to cheer early in the fourth quarter. Stephens completed a curl pass to Matthews from his own 6, and the junior receiver turned to the outside, picked up a block and weaved across the field for a 68-yard play. On the next play, Xavier Railey squirted around the right edge and scored from the 21. Stephens hooked up with Matthews on the two point conversion to cut the Athens Christian lead to 20-8.
Any hopes for a Lion rally vanished when Sims took a handoff and rumbled 52 yards for his third touchdown on the evening. Shealey's PAT extended the lead to 27-8 with 4:43 left in the game.
Stephens tried to rally Hebron Christian but the Golden Eagles defense knew he was going to throw. Athens Christian interecepted and four plays later T.A. Caruthe scored with 2:36 remaining.
Athens Christian finished the game with 306 yards rushing, with Wildgoose leading the way with 130 yards on 11 carries.
Hebron Christian finished the night with 167 total yards. Stephens led the Lions offense as the junior signal caller was 7 of 16 for 132 yards.