Three-Point Stance: Athens Builds A Powerhouse

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Editor’s Note: Three-Point Stance is Gridiron Glory’s written preview series leading up to its 15th season on WOUB. Gridiron is visiting training camps for all 32 teams in the coverage area as they prepare for the 2013 football season. The series continues in the TVC-Ohio, where five teams look to knock Athens from the top of the standings.

It was a magical season last year for the Athens Bulldogs.

After losing their season opener to Gallia Academy, the Bulldogs rode an 11-game winning streak to within one game of the state tournament. Their incredible run ended there, as they lost to Division III powerhouse Thurgood Marshall in the Region 12 Final. But it was a tremendous experience for Athens and their coach, Ryan Adams.

The high-powered offense that was led by quarterback Joey Burrow and running back Trae Williams has returned for the 2013 season, but the Bulldogs have lost 17 key seniors from last year’s team.

“It’s always a big change and transition when you graduate 17 seniors out, which we’ve done last year. We’ve actually done it the last two years,” Adams said. “A lot of new faces and we’re a very young football team this year.”

Here are three things to know about the 2013 Athens Bulldogs:

1. Rebuilding a defense

The Bulldogs’ defense has taken a major hit, as nine of their top 10 tacklers from last season graduated. Adams’ ultimate challenge this season will be replenishing the defense and getting them to the level of the last year’s state runner-up team.

“We’ve got a whole lot of people getting thrown into the fire defensively this year,” Adams said. “There’s certainly a lot of new names that you’re going to have to be hearing from this year.”

Williams, who ranked ninth on the team in tackles, returns this year, but Adams is expecting a lot of players to step up in their first varsity stint.

“Take a guy like Dan Evans, who last year was his first year playing varsity. He ended up being the third-leading tackler on your football team at free safety,” Adams said. “We’ve got to have a number of those types of players step up this year to be able to continue with the success we’ve had.”

Adams expects players like senior Alex Goldsberry, who sat out last season after having a kidney laceration, to return to full form and succeed this year.

There are also some sophomores coming up from the JV squad that are expected to step in and compete for a starting position. At the cornerback position, Athens is looking towards Heath Wiseman, who Adams claims is “one of the fastest kids on [the] team.”

2. High-powered offense returns

The duo of Burrow and Williams is once again expected to tear up the Tri-Valley Conference this season. The two juniors combined for 5,541 of Athens’ 6,296 total yards last year.

At the receiver position, the Bulldogs lost Skylar Schwarzel and Tyler McIntosh to graduation, which appears to be a big loss on paper. The two receivers combined for 2,065 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, but Adams expects their replacements to step right in and succeed.

Ryan and Adam Luehrman were the No. 3 and 4 receivers last season, and the twins are expected to have bigger roles in this year’s offense. Combine them with a quarterback like Burrow, who threw for 3,239 yards and 47 touchdowns last year, and the Bulldogs have another offense poised to match last year’s average of 49.8 points per game.

“We’ve got a nice core of players that seem to be doing everything they can in order to be effective,” Adams said. “Keep the offense performing at the level it was last year.

3. Expectations

Back-to-back appearances in the state title game are going to be tough for the Bulldogs, especially after losing 17 players to graduation. Athens returns Burrow and Williams, which will help the team stay atop the TVC-Ohio.

The offense was the key to last year’s squad by scoring over 49 points a game, while the defense allowed 25 points per game.

And despite returning two All-Ohio Second Team selections in Burrow and Williams, Adams said his offense wouldn’t become one-dimensional in the running game, as he tries to keep a balance in his team’s game plan.

“It’s going to be a team effort that makes us a successful team,” Adams said. “It’s going to take a lot people stepping up and playing high-caliber high school football.”

The Bulldogs again start their season with a date with Gallia Academy, Friday, Aug. 30 in The Plains.

Follow @gridironglory on Twitter and Instagram and Like the Gridiron Glory Facebook page for continued coverage throughout the preseason. Gridiron Glory returns Friday, Aug. 23 at 11:30 p.m. on WOUB.