Eagles fall to Hornets by one point
Andrew Gates, No. 44, kicks the ball during Friday night’s game at Swink Stadium in Rusk as teammates Bryce Driver, No. 18 and No. 16 run support. The Rusk Eagles took on the Athens Hornets for their first home game of the season on Sept. 7. Rusk dominated the score board through most of the game, but ultimately fell to Athens in the fourth quarter, losing by just one point. The Eagles will travel to Palestine on Friday, Sept. 14 to take on the Wildcats. Game play will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Rusk Eagle football opened up their first home game of the season with a tough last minute loss against the Athens Hornets.
Athens won the opening toss, elected to receive the ball first and the Hornets scored within forty-three seconds of the kickoff (11:17) to light up the scoreboard. The Hornets PAT was good, leaving the score at Rusk 0-Athens 7.
Athens kicked the ball off to Rusk and the Eagles immediately answered back with a touchdown with 11 minutes left in the first quarter.
The Eagle’s PAT was blocked by Athens, but Rusk grabbed the ball and ran it into the end zone for two, making the score Rusk 8-Athens 7.
Athens regained control of the ball, but had trouble getting it down field. The Hornets got their first down on their own 41 yard line with 9:24 left in the first quarter, but facing 4th and three, the Hornets punted the ball and Rusk received it on their own 26 yard line with 7:01 to go in the first.
Rusk quarterback, Connor Ellis passed to Jojo Francis to gain a couple of yards.
On the next play, Ellis kept the ball and advanced to the Athens 41 yard line with 6:05 left. Another quick handoff to Francis moved the ball forward with the next pass from Ellis to Semaj Johnson for a nice run down to the Athens 23 yard line with 4:35 to go in the first.
The next play saw an equally nice run when Ellis pitched the ball to Tyrell Morrison as he ran 10 yards to the 13 and an Ellis to Francis handoff saw another Eagle touchdown with 3:12 left. The Eagles opted for a two-point conversion which was good, making the score Rusk 16-Athens 7.
Rusk kicked the ball off to Athens and it went out of bounds at the 34 yard line; with Athens getting the ball on their own 40 yard line.
On the next play, Athens got a nice 39 yard run down to the Eagle 21 yard line with 2:22 left the first quarter. Two plays later saw an illegal procedure call against Athens, giving them a five yard penalty.
Rusk took a time-out immediately followed by an Athens time-out. Athens came back in and ran 25 yards for a touchdown with :37 left in first quarter leaving the score at Rusk 16-Athens 14.
Athens kicked the ball with Jeremy Johnson making the catch and running up to the Eagle 28 yard line to end the first quarter.
Second quarter saw an Eagle 42 yard touchdown pass from Ellis to Johnson with 11:34 to go bumping the score up to Rusk 22-Athens 14.
Athens gained control of the ball, attempting to get it down field quickly by passing, but instead saw an interception by Rusk's Ladarian Polk.
In the next play a 15 yard penalty flag was thrown on Rusk and the Eagles struggled to get their momentum going with Andrew Gates punting the ball to Athens' 36 yard line.
In just a couple of plays, Athens drove the ball down field the Rusk 33 yard line.
On the next play, Jaheim Upshaw sacked the Hornet’s quarterback for a loss of seven yards, bringing Athens back to the Rusk 40 yard line with less than 5 minutes to go in the first half.
The Eagles took a time-out with 4:29 left in the second quarter, and they held Athens to four downs, forcing them to punt with the ball rolling into the end zone for a touchback.
Rusk got the ball on their own 20 yard line, but two plays later Rusk fumbled, allowing Athens recover it on the Eagle 42 yard line.
Another two plays and Athens fumbled the ball with Rusk's Gates coming up with the recovery on the Eagle 18 yard line with just 1:47 left in the half.
An Ellis to S. Johnson pass was good for an Eagle first down as time runs out in the first half.
The second half saw the Eagles receiving the kickoff and a few injuries. Ellis and J. Johnson both left the game with injuries; Ellis with a bruised arm and J. Johnson with a broken collarbone and dislocated shoulder. J. Johnson was later transported to the hospital.
Late in the third quarter Francis ran 76 yards for an Eagle touchdown, but the attempted two-point conversion was no good making the score Rusk 28-Athens 14, with 3:33 left in third quarter.
Athens struggled to get their momentum going on their next possession with the team receiving a penalty flag for holding, resulting in a loss of 10 yards with 1:37 left in the third.
The fourth quarter started with Athens scoring a touchdown, but the ball got loose without a touchdown signal being called, so Gates picked it up preparing to run, but referees blew the whistle to signal a touchdown for Athens with a few puzzled looks from Rusk fans.
Rusk had the ball on their own 20 and quickly got a first down. The next play resulted in a bad snap with Rusk losing 17 yards, from the 34 yard line back to their 17. Rusk was forced to punt the ball with 8:20 left.
Athens got the ball on the 50 yard line and immediately ran the ball 26 yards for a first down with Athens scoring a touchdown on the next play with 7:11 left.
Rusk gained possession of the ball on their own 36 yard line and was able to advance to the 46 yard ling, marking a first down. Francis kept the ball, running 23 yards down to the Athens 31.
The following plays resulted in a pass from Francis down to the 16 yard line,and a quarterback keeper down to the 11 yard line with 4:45 left.
Francis then handed the ball off to Morrison who ran it down to the 7 yard line; marking first and goal for the Eagles. The Eagles ran another quarterback keeper with Francis pushing through to the one yard line and with one yard left to go, Francis ran it in on the next play.
Rusk completed a two point conversion, but there were flags on the play; one against Rusk and one against Athens.
The Eagles replayed the two-point conversion without success as Francis was pushed back just a yard shy of the end zone.
Athens gained possession of the ball, but one of their players went down on the sidelines. Trainers and coaches ran over to assist the player and they brought out a stretcher. After several minutes, the Athens player was loaded up and put into an ambulance.
The crowd applauded as he was taken off the field and put his hands in the air to show he was okay.
Athens, still with possession of the ball, made it down to the Rusk 46 yard line with 1:02 left when a flag was called on Athens for delay of game.
Athens followed up by running it down to the Rusk 21, where Rusk called a time-out.
When game play resumed, Athens immediately scored a touchdown tying the game at 34. Rusk attempted to block the PAT, but it was good, allowing Athens to pull ahead by one point.
Rusk got the ball on their own 16 yard line and quickly tried to make it downfield before time ran out.
Francis ran it 40 yards down field before being brought down and the game clock ran out.
Final game score was Rusk 34-Athens 35.
Next week the Eagles travel to Palestine to take on the Wildcats.
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