JACKSONVILLE — The Athens Hornets opened their second straight playoff appearance on Friday in Jacksonville, taking on the six-time state champion and 4A powerhouse Carthage Bulldogs in the bi-district round.
Though Carthage had a three touchdown lead at halftime, Athens showed some fight as they tried to stay in it. But the Bulldogs were able to pull away in the second half to the 49-14 win, eliminating the Hornets and ending their season.
Both teams made stops against each other right out of the gate, including the Hornets forcing a turnover on downs against the Bulldogs.
Carthage got on the board first, 7-0, with a 30-yard touchdown catch by Kel Williams.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Bulldogs got the ball right back as they recovered it when it bounced off of Justin Young's legs. Two plays later, Kelvontay Dixon caught a 17-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14-0.
The Hornets were marching down the field as the first quarter ended into Bulldog territory. As the second period started, Nathan Sims broke through for an 18-yard TD run and Athens jumped on the board, trailing 14-7.
Carthage's next drive was highlighted by a 36 yard run from Mason Courtney and after reaching the Hornet red zone, Rayvon Ingram punched in a 2-yard touchdown run on a 4th-and-1 and the Bulldogs led 21-7.
Athens was knocking on the door again as they went to Carthage's 31-yard line. But on a 4th-and-14, Jerquindon Taylor could not connect on a pass from Chase Frederich at the end zone and they turned it over on downs.
Carthage built their lead to 28-7, which was the halftime score, with Craig McNew's 13-yard TD run with 2:08 until the break.
Athens received the ball in the second half, but would punt.
The Bulldogs then started at their own 6 and would march again to the Hornets' red zone, where the drive was capped off with Courtney's two-yard touchdown run. On the drive, Sims suffered what appeared to be a neck injury and was carted off.
The next Hornet drive began with a 32-yard run by Dre Thompson to Carthage's 33. Moments later, Taylor caught a 16-yard touchdown and the Hornets now trailed 35-14 with 1:14 in the third quarter.
They attempted an onside kick to try and get back into it, but it failed. The Bulldogs iced the game just one play later when Williams caught his second touchdown for 45 yards and Carthage led 42-14.
They would add one more touchdown in the fourth and that would be it as Carthage cruised to the 49-14 win, advancing to the area round and wrapping up the Hornets' season.
The Hornets finish the 2019 season and year one under coach Zac Harrell with a 6-5 record.