Updated Thu, Aug 18, 2011 8:30 pm
The 2011 football season looks to be a turning point for the Athens Bulldogs. Head Coach Ryan Adams is in his 5th year at the helm and expects this season to be the year the Bulldogs establish themselves as a team to beat. The Bulldogs ended the 2010 season with a disappointing 5-5 overall record after going 9-1 in 2009. The Bulldogs held a 3-2 mark in the TVC-Ohio, finishing 3rd in conference standings.
One positive note from the 2010 season was Devon Sharp. Sharp emerged as an explosive threat on offense from multiple positions on the field. The running back doubled as a quarter back, running the “Wild Dog” offense. Entering his senior season, the Gridiron Glory Player of the Year Finalist has one more chance to leave his mark. Coach Adams said Sharp is simply a playmaker that has a unique talent. “Devon is a special player. He’s got the ability to take any play we call to the house. It’s no surprise we will be building the team around him and relying on him to make plays again this season.”
Another player maker returning for his senior season is Mitch Rider. Rider was named the TVC-OH Defensive Player of the Year while anchoring the Bulldogs defense from the middle linebacker position. Plenty of new faces will be seen this season, especially on defense. The Bulldogs will be replacing Ian Dixon, a shut down corner back from last year. Adams expects sophomore Freddie Stalder to step in and become a key player this season. “Freddie is a great athlete. He can play whatever position we ask him to. He will most likely be in the defensive backfield but can play outside linebacker as well.”
Adding to the excitement of this season, the Athens Bulldogs will enjoy a new stadium with a synthetic turf surface. The renovation creates a fast playing field for speedsters like Sharp and senior running back Chris Russell. Russell averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season. Two-a-days begin in August and the Bulldogs’ season kicks off on August 26th against Gallia Academy in Gallipolis, OH. Coach Adams said a lot of work still needs to be done. “Our goals are always the same; win all 10 games, win the TVC-OH and get a league championship. To do that, we are going to need everybody to step up and work hard to win ball games.”
Winning ball games is just what the community around Athens High School needs. After a tornado storm devastated the area, including the Bulldogs’ stadium, the community came together in support of their hometown team. Coach Adams said the returning players that went through last year’s events learned a valuable lesson about taking advantage of the opportunities they receive. The 2011 season looks to be one more opportunity the Athens Bulldogs take advantage of.