By Justin Graves
ATHENS – Golden Eagles football coach Allen Creasy believes he finally has all the pieces of the puzzle this year at Athens.
Creasy knew his team was going to have a very talented group of players just from the personnel returning from the teams that advanced to the Class 5A semifinals in 2004 and the quarterfinals in 2005.
But after adding “the missing pieces of the puzzle” this year, he believes the Golden Eagles’ chances are even better.
“We picked up some guys from the basketball team that can help us a lot,” Creasy said. “Some of these guys haven’t played football in a long time, but they’re natural athletes and adjusting fast.”
The players Creasy is talking about are wide receiver Justin Pitts, running back Ferrell Williams and offensive tackle Martin Evans. Pitts and Williams were on the basketball team, while Evans is attempting to return from an injury.
“Justin (Pitts) is another big, tall wide receiver for us to get the ball too, and Martin (Evans) is the strongest guy on the team,” Creasy said. “All of these guys are going to be real important to us.”
Even before the new additions came, Athens was already returning one of the most talented teams in the state. All-State quarterback
Rob Ezell leads a potent Golden Eagles attack that hasn’t had any problems putting points on the scoreboard in the past. With receivers like Pitts, Jaquez Pride, Vincent Azzarello and William Meng to get the ball to this year, Athens’ offense appears to be just as dangerous.
“Everybody makes mistakes, but having receivers as talented as ours can make up for some of those mistakes,” Ezell said. “When you’ve got guys like that to throw the ball to, it makes you twice as confident as you were before.”
Defense wins games
With the addition of Decatur, along with Russellville, Hartselle and J.O. Johnson, Class 5A Region 8 is considered to be among the toughest in the state.
Playing in a region that strong means Athens will need a stingy defense to be successful. Creasy’s confidant the Golden Eagles have players that can get the job done.
One of the strongest parts of Athens’ defense is the defensive line – featuring three players who have a chance to play in college. Alfred McCullough – who committed to Alabama this summer – and Carlos Jones anchor the Golden Eagles’ front at defensive end, and Maurice Rattliff is the centerpiece at nose-guard.
“Everything we do on defense runs through those three guys,” Creasy said. “They are very imposing figures and all three are hard to block.”
Athens also features a good corps of linebackers behind its defensive front, lead by senior Jeff Leonard.
“We are going to be a physical defense this year,” Leonard said. “But that’s what it’s all about. Nothing gives your team a bigger boost than laying down a huge lick on somebody.”
With all the pass-happy offenses in Region 8 this season, Creasy said he would need a lot from his secondary.
Creasy believes Antonio Long, Dewayne Tisdale and Jeremy Stinnent should get the job done in the secondary.
“All three of those guys cover the field well,” Creasy said. “They have the potential to be a very good secondary, and that’s what we need.”
The big game
The Golden Eagles get their first true test early when Athens hosts East Limestone for the season opener on Saturday, Sept. 2. It is the first time the two schools have played, and it is expected to be one of the biggest local games during the opening week.
“Everybody in the community is real excited about that game,” Creasy said. “It’s going to be a test for us, and that’s the type of games we like to play.”
By Justin Graves
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