Golden Eagles soar over Red Raiders

Sep. 9—ATHENS — For the first time in 17 years, the Athens football team is 3-0.

The Golden Eagles pulled out an statement win over Decatur on Friday to open region play, beating the Red Raiders 44-16.

The 3-0 start is the first since 2006 for the Golden Eagles. That year they won the 5A state championship, and current Athens' players were either in diapers or not yet born.

"I was born in January 2006, so I was barely alive," said Caiden Dumas. "It's exciting to accomplish something that hasn't been done in that long, and it's cool to see all the hard work we've put in pay off."

Athens started the game with a bang when quarterback Brogan Gross found John McIntyre for a 65-yard touchdown.

"We wanted to set the tone early," McIntyre said.

McIntyre finished with two touchdowns, the other being a 49-yard run.

Athens' Jay'Shon Ridgle rushed for a 2-yard score and had an 84-yard kickoff return for a score. Running back Silas Jones rushed for a 12-yard score, and Gross connected with Johnson Speegle for a 46-yard touchdown.

Decatur's scores came on a 3-yard run from quarterback Bradin Dupper and a 4-yard run from running back Isaiah Allen. Roberto Toto added a 29-yard field goal.

Athens led 15-7 after the first quarter and 31-7 at halftime.

While the Athens offense scored points in bunches like they have all season, it was the defense that really stepped up.

Decatur had trips inside the Athens 30, 15 and 10 (three times). Those drives ended in two fumbles, a turnover on downs, a field goal and just one touchdown.

The biggest stop came just before halftime. Decatur had the ball first and goal at the 7, but ended up turning it over on downs at the 2 with 14 seconds left.

"That was huge," Athens head coach Cody Gross said. "If they score a touchdown there, it's 31-14 at halftime and they get the ball to start the second half. It would have been a whole different ballgame."

Athens' defense finished with four turnovers, two fumbles and two interceptions (Caiden Dumas, Tyler Johnston), and also forced a safety.

Next week Decatur will return home to host Cullman in another region game.

Athens will hit the road, traveling to take on Class 6A, No. 5 Muscle Shoals.

"We've got a big one next week. This might be one of the best teams they've ever had, and that's saying something," Cody Gross said. "We're going to have to get it strapped up and ready to go."

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