Published: Oct 03, 2006 10:18 AM
Modified: Oct 03, 2006 10:18 AM
With a 21-15 win over Cary High on Friday, the Athens Drive High football players only had one question for their coach: Are we for real yet?
The last time Athens (6-1, 1-1 Tri-Eight) beat Cary (3-4, 1-1) was beyond recollection for most of the faculty, and even second-year coach Jeff Smouse.
Â“I told the kids it was before the Civil War,Â” Smouse said. Â“Then I had a kid ask me when that was.Â”
For the record, the JaguarsÂ’ last defeated Cary in 1992 by a 33-21 margin.
Athens quarterback Nick DeMuro carried his team in the first half with a 14-yard touchdown run and 41-yard pass to receiver T.J. Kornegay to give the Jaguars a 15-7 lead before the break.
In the third quarter, the Imps stormed back quickly. Fifteen seconds into the second half, running back Alex Hellard sprinted 78 yards for a score and Denny FerachoÂ’s two-point conversion run tied the game.
Cary continued to seize control of momentum as Nick Shinn intercepted a DeMuro pass on the ImpsÂ’ 15-yard line with 10:04 remaining in the game.
The Jaguars may have been experiencing deja vu at that point.
On Sept. 22, Athens suffered its first loss, to Fuquay-Varina High. So to make sure his team was not willing to succumb to defeat against Cary, Smouse and a couple other Athens coaches showed up at practice wearing green and sounding an air-horn almost every minute.
Â“It really wasnÂ’t hard to get them motivated again,Â” Smouse said. Â“Every time I blew the air-horn they would do push-ups. They must have done about 250 of them. We got them focused.Â”
The Imps never got a subsequent first down off ShinnÂ’s interception. Cary fumbled and the Jaguars recovered the ball at the ImpsÂ’ 27. With 7:08 remaining, Athens running back Andy Bertolozzi broke through the Cary defense for a 4-yard touchdown run.
Â“I just saw the line and I went through,Â” Bertolozzi said. Â“Now that we know we can do both, we try to mix it up. If the runÂ’s there, weÂ’ll do that. If the pass is there, weÂ’ll do that.Â”
With two minutes remaining, Cary came Â— literally Â— within inches of tying the score at 21. At AthensÂ’ 1-yard line, the Imps decided to risk go for it on fourth down. Athens defensive line proved too stout, though, as the Jaguars stopped the Imps.
Although Athens allowed 257 rushing yards to Cary, the JaguarsÂ’ passing game proved, yet again, to be their driving force. DeMuro, who leads the area in total passing yards (1,647) and is second in average yardage (235), ended the game 12-of-22 for 181 yards.
Â“It felt really good to finally beat Cary,Â” DeMuro said. Â“That was our big game of the year. We figure if we can beat them, we can beat a lot of people.Â”
CaryÂ’s Hellard, who is quickly becoming one of the top rushers in the area, finished with 194 yards.
Even though Athens captured its first win since rejoining the Tri-Eight, Smouse wants to see his players debate some more over their question before giving them an answer.
Â“IÂ’m not saying weÂ’re anywhere yet,Â” he said. Â“WeÂ’re better than we were last year. WeÂ’ve just got to keep going.Â”
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