For The News Courier
East Limestone didn’t do anything flashy during Friday night’s 24-12 win at rival Athens. The Indians kept the ball on the ground, played sound defense and did what they had to on special teams to win their third straight against the Golden Eagles.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” said East Limestone head coach Jeff Pugh. “We knew Athens would give us their best game and they did. We were able to run the ball and play our football. It was a hard-fought game until the very end.”
East Limestone completed only one pass all night, but the 32-yard gain from Matthew Franks to Jesse Watwood set up the Indians first touchdown of the night. Torren Haley scored on the next play on a 9-yard touchdown run, dragging Athens defenders with him across the goal line. The senior led East Limestone with 17 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown.
“Coach just told me to keep my feet moving,” Haley said. “The play was supposed to be to the outside and cut it up inside. My line made a hole for me and I just ran it in.”
Mitchell Mathis put the Indians on the board first with a 34-yard field goal with 9:40 remaining in the second quarter. Haley’s touchdown made it 10-0 East with less than two minutes to play until halftime.
Trailing East 10-0 with 1:39 remaining in the first half, Athens had not scored a touchdown in nearly 14 quarters, a streak going back to the second quarter against Hartselle. In three plays and 28 seconds, the Golden Eagles snapped that streak when William Mathews lofted a ball over the East secondary to connect with Derek Teague for a 57-yard touchdown to make it 10-6 and give Athens momentum entering halftime.
That momentum swung in the visitor’s favor on the second-half kickoff when Teague fumbled the kickoff and gave East the ball at the 11-yard line. Jevon Turner made them pay two plays later on a 32-yard touchdown run. Mathis’ extra point made it 17-6 East.
East Limestone safety Tristian Matthews picked off a Mathews pass along the sideline at the Golden Eagles’ 41-yard line, but the Indians were unable to add to the lead. Following an East Limestone punt, Athens put together its best drive of the night capped by a Johnnie Anderson 15-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
The touchdown came on a third-and-goal from the 15-yard line. Athens had most of its success on third downs, converting three plays on third-and-15 or longer. Anderson finished with a team-high five catches for 63 yards and one touchdown.
The ensuing two-point conversion was no good, making it 17-12 East Limestone with 10:32 remaining in the game.
What East Limestone did on the next possession was simply push Athens off the ball and run the clock out. The Indians put together a 13-play 82-yard drive that ate more than six minutes off the clock. Franks finished the drive with a 2-yard quarterback sneak.
“I told the guys that we’re going to have to run the ball down the field and that’s what we did,” Pugh said. “I think we may have ran the same play 10 straight times. Football is still just about blocking and tackling and we did those things well tonight.”
Mathews led Athens down to the Indians’ 5-yard line, but threw an interception on fourth-and-goal to seal the East Limestone victory. The junior, starting his first game of the season, completed 14-of-20 passes for 217 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
On the opposite side of the ball, Franks did more on the ground, rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
East Limestone (3-3, 2-2) will host Muscle Shoals (6-0, 4-0) next week, while Athens (1-5, 1-3) will travel to Russellville (4-2, 2-2).