Hawkins makes history: Athens Academy running back leads Spartans to third win - Oconee Enterprise
Shouts of the number seven echoed around Athens Academy’s Slaughter Field last Friday as Tre Hawkins broke his own school record.
Yet Hawkins himself appeared calm, cool and collected.
The junior handed the ball to the referee in the end zone, running back down the field like he did after every other play that night.
In the game against Providence Christian Academy, Hawkins scored seven touchdowns and rushed for 301 yards on 20 carries, breaking his previous school record of five touchdowns and 285 yards. His performance led the Spartans to a 70-35 win.
“I really just wanted to win. That’s the prize: getting the win each week,” Hawkins said. “I wasn’t really going for a record, but it happened. And I’d like to thank the o-line for that and the receivers and the quarterback for making adjustments.”
Friday’s game was Hawkins’ third of the season. He sat out in the opener against Trinity Christian due to an ongoing ankle injury.
While sitting out that game was frustrating, Hawkins knew he had to move on and prepare for the next game.
His breakout came at a nearly perfect time. Six minutes into the first quarter, a late hit on teammate Austin McGee left McGee with an injury to his left leg. McGee was helped off the field to be examined and never returned to the game.
By the time McGee left the field, Athens Academy already scored two touchdowns, both by Hawkins. Still, the Spartan offense relied on McGee for movement early in the first quarter.
“I wouldn’t say it affected us in a positive way, but then again, I’ll say it would because it made us fight harder. We wanted to go out and win for him because that’s our brother,” Hawkins said. “It was definitely devastating, we didn’t want that to happen, but you have to play your cards the way they’re dealt.”
Knowing there was more pressure on the rest of the offense, Hawkins and quarterback Sam Bush turned to the game ahead of them. The Spartans were ahead by only 2 points.
Not even a minute after McGee’s exit, Hawkins sparked the offense, running in a 28-yard touchdown, his third of the night.
The second quarter began five minutes later with the same theme: a Hawkins touchdown. Bush completed a 34-yard pass to Asa Drudge that set up a 1-yard rush for Hawkins.
In Providence’s following possession, the Spartan defense found a rhythm, forcing a punt attempt from the Storm. But the punt was fumbled, causing players to reach after the ball for nearly 10 yards as it slipped into Providence’s end zone.
Will Warner jumped over the goal line for the ball to get the touchdown call for Athens Academy.
The Storm continued to put up a fight in the frame, finding space between Athens Academy linemen to run the ball into the end zone. Providence tried for a 2-point conversion but failed, leaving a 16-point gap between the two teams.
In response, the Storm attempted an onside kick, but it was recovered by the Spartans. Bush immediately ran for a 56-yard touchdown.
A possession later, Hawkins scored his fifth touchdown with 3:20 left in the half. He ran for 55 yards, his longest rush of the game.
When halftime came around a few minutes later, the Spartans led 49-27. By that point, Hawkins had five touchdowns and 193 yards on five carries.
The team returned to the field 20 minutes later and Athens Academy picked up where it left off.
Jamari Welch had a 35-yard return that set up Bush for his second rushing touchdown of the game.
The teams’ defenses showed through as the quarter went back and forth between the Spartans and the Storm.
With less than five minutes left in the quarter, Hawkins scored his final two touchdowns. His seventh one came from a 36-yard rush to bring the Spartans to a coincidental score of 70.
Fans and teammates cheered on Hawkins as he returned to the sideline with his two new school records.
“He’s just a good back,” said head coach Josh Alexander. “He’s finally healthy and doing what he does. He’s just fun to watch.”
Providence recorded its final touchdown in the fourth quarter to end the game at a score of 70-35.
Three hours after kickoff, Spartan friends and family finally gathered on the field to congratulate the Athens Academy team.
Campus bells rang in the distance, celebrating the win.
“We really can’t just focus on this game, it’s behind us now,” Hawkins said. “We have to focus on the week ahead of us and winning that week and not just think about this win because this score doesn’t matter anymore. It’s behind us, it’s in the past.”
Tre Hawkins shatters Athens Academy rushing records as Spartans defeat Providence Christian - ABH
ATHENS ACADEMY 70, PROVIDENCE CHRISTIAN 35: At Slaughter Field, Tre Hawkins set school records for rushing yards and a game and touchdowns scored as the Spartans – ranked No. 7 in Class A Private – squashed the Storm for the second consecutive season.
Hawkins rushed 20 times for 301 yards and scored seven touchdowns as Athens Academy improved to 3-1.
Hawkins scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, the first on a 4-yard run and the second on a 32-yard dash. In the second quarter he scored three more touchdowns, including a 55-yard run with 3:20 before halftime. He closed out the night with fourth-quarter runs of 3 and 36 yards.
Defensive back Will Warner added a touchdown in the second quarter when he recovered a botch punt attempt by Providence Christian and ran it in for a score. Quarterback Sam Bush contributed a 65-yard run in the second quarter and a 13-yard run in the third quarter. The Spartans – who defeated Providence Christian 55-12 in 2020, are off Friday and will play Sept. 24 at Hebron Christian.
AOTW: Bush breaks big runs to lead Spartans vs. Augusta Christian - Oconee Enterprise
Athens Academy football got off to a fast start last Friday. The Spartans were led to their quick offensive surge by quarterback Sam Bush.
Bush, a junior, had three rushing touchdowns to his credit through the first 14 minutes or so of last week’s game against Augusta Christian School.
Those scores got the Spartans rolling early and they did not look back, earning a 42-27 win.
Bush said he started getting himself mentally prepared for the game last Tuesday when the contest came together after both teams’ originally scheduled opponents canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
“I had a good mindset coming in here,” Bush said after the game. “We started on Tuesday when we found out we were having the game. We just had to execute like normal.”
By the end of the night, Bush finished with 110 yards rushing on 12 carries. His longest run of the night went for 53 yards.
Bush went 3-for-9 through the air with 67 yards, 65 of which came on a big throw to Pratt Ferguson.
That performance continued a good trend for Bush so far this season.
In the season opener, Bush ran for 41 yards. Bush rushed for two touchdowns week two while also going 4-for-10 with 89 yards passing and a passing touchdown.
Those three games marked Bush’s first few outings as the Athens Academy starting quarterback.
Spartans head coach Josh Alexander said that Bush’s big numbers so far are a big reason why Athens Academy currently holds a 2-1 record this season.
“He's such a good athlete,” Alexander said. “He extends plays, he makes good decisions, he runs the ball well. He's doing a great job for us. Every week, he gets a little more comfortable. It's fun watching him play.”
Spartans roll to victory over Augusta Christian - Oconee Enterprise
Last week’s Athens Academy football game against Augusta Christian School came together in abrupt fashion but the Spartans adjusted well enough to earn a 42-27 victory.
The originally scheduled game against Commerce was canceled after Commerce experienced COVID-19-related issues within its roster. That left Athens Academy without an opponent.
As fate had it, Augusta Christian’s originally scheduled game was called off for the same reason and the Lions needed a new opponent, too. The impromptu game was scheduled by Tuesday afternoon, and it gave the Spartans an unexpected extra home game.
“We just got ready like any other week,” said Athens Academy quarterback Sam Bush. “We watched their film and got ready like normal. Even though we started on Tuesday, we knew we had to start fast and we had to get there like any other week.”
For Athens Academy head coach Josh Alexander, the sudden change presented a fun challenge even if the planned rivalry battle with Commerce couldn’t happen.
“The wind came out of their sails a little bit but then they gathered themselves and said, ‘Hey, we've got to get ready to go play another game,’” Alexander said. “As a coach, it was fun because you got to do two game plans in a week. A lot of work, but that's the fun part to me.”
The Spartans’ game plan for Augusta Christian worked. They put up five touchdowns in the first half and cruised to their second victory of the season.
Bush scored on a rushing touchdown to get the Spartans on the board 7-0 just a few minutes into the game. After surrendering a 64-yard touchdown pass, the Spartans scored 28 unanswered points before halftime.
A few big runs by Tre Hawkins helped set up Bush’s second rushing score at the 3:11 mark of the first quarter. Bush ripped off a long run to score his third touchdown with 10:19 to play in the second quarter.
K.J. Whitehead intercepted a pass soon thereafter and nearly returned it for a touchdown. Wally Terrell scored on the ensuing Spartans possession, making it a 28-7 game with 8:55 left before intermission.
Whitehead, a freshman, said “it felt fantastic” notching his first career interception. The young defensive back found himself in the right spot on a chaotic play that saw the Athens Academy defensive linemen flush Augusta Christian’s quarterback out of the pocket and force him to scramble to his left.
“I didn't have anybody on my side, so I was just sitting back,” Whitehead said. “I thought he was going to get sacked but I was just sitting in that area. I saw the ball thrown and it was right to my hands. I picked it and just started running, starting chugging toward the end zone.”
Reid Bangle had an interception return for a touchdown on a later drive. Bangle’s pick-six pushed Athens Academy’s lead out to 35-7 by halftime.
The Spartans’ offense sputtered on the first drive of the second half, leading to a punt. Augusta Christian struck quickly with a 73-yard touchdown run, cutting the lead to 35-13 after a blocked extra point attempt.
Hawkins effectively put the game away with a 30-yard scoring run to make it 42-13 with 10:18 to go.
Augusta Christian scored touchdowns on Athens Academy’s backups at the 47-second and 31-second marks of the fourth quarter, but the Spartans’ lead was insurmountable.
Bush went 3-for-9 with 67 yards passing, including a 65-yard completion to Pratt Ferguson, and an interception. He notched 110 yards rushing on 12 carries with three rushing touchdowns.
Hawkins ran it 20 times for 111 yards and a score.
“Our offensive line did great, our running backs did great, our wide receivers did great,” Bush said. “Everyone just had a hell of a game.”
Hawkins’ performance was a particular bright spot for Alexander, considering Hawkins returned two weeks ago after missing game one due to injury.
“We're young in a lot of spots and trying to get better every week,” Alexander said. “Sam's done a great job and Tre Hawkins is running the ball really well. He's getting better every quarter, so it's fun to watch him sort of get his legs under him and become who we know he can be.”
Jimmy Humphries led the Spartans’ defensive effort with 11 total tackles, including two sacks. Sam Johnson finished with a pair of sacks and two tackles for loss. Jeremiah Wingfield notched a sack, too.
The Lions finished with solid offensive numbers.
Quarterback Grayson Brooker threw for nearly 150 yards and running back Zackery Blackwell had 165 yards rushing.
Athens Academy’s big stops, however, were more than enough to gain a cushion.
“We had to lock down,” Johnson said. “Their running back was, obviously, a stud player. I think our linebackers did a heck of a job there. Johnerio Holt had a great game, Taylor Muir, the right tackle, had a great game. I think all up front we were really, really strong and I think that's what helped us win. And of course, our cornerbacks helped us out, too.”
There was one element of last week’s game that left Alexander “very concerned,” though.
Athens Academy committed eight penalties. That followed up 12 penalties two weeks ago against Charlotte Country Day School and 10 penalties in the season opener versus Trinity Christian.
The 30 penalties across the first three games are something the Spartans will hone in on, according to Alexander.
“We'll go back and dissect it to see what it was,” he said. “We'll try to get better at those.”
Athens Academy is scheduled to host Providence Christian Academy this Friday.
'It's a special time': Pregame meals fuel the mind and body of Athens-area football players - ABH
When Athens Academy football coach Josh Alexander was a player at Morrow High School, he can clearly remember the pregame meals he and his teammates consumed.
“We usually ate two Chick-fil-A sandwiches and a bag of chips,” said Alexander. “And we were really appreciative of that.”
Athens Christian coach Rickey Bustle recalled that when he played at Summerville High in South Carolina, the pregame meal concept had not yet reached his school.
“When I was in high school, my mother fixed my pregame meal – it wasn’t a team thing then,” said Bustle, whose career includes coaching on the prep, college and professional levels. “You went home in the afternoon and had that skinny steak and potato and then went back to school for the game.”
The pregame meal has without question come a long way from sandwiches and chips and an even longer way from Mom’s home-cooked repast. At Athens Academy, Athens Christian and many other Athens-area schools, parents work with each other and with caterers to ensure their respective teams have plenty of fuel for the night ahead.
“We want to give them something that burns fast,” said Bustle. “We want to make sure we give them a good meal to play on.” “We make sure we’re feeding our guys the right meal – proper nutrition, lots of color, lots of hydration,” said Alexander. “We put a lot of thought into what they’re eating. There are different meats, lots of carbs, fruits and desserts. Our kids are very appreciative for what our parents do.”
When asked if the Athens Christian crew has a dessert option with their Friday meal, Bustle quipped, “Dessert? If there was dessert I’d be getting it, so I don’t think we have dessert on there.”
Fueling the body and the mind
While the pregame feast is designed to fuel the body, there are other aspects to the meal that both Alexander and Bustle feel are just as important as the food itself.
Alexander said that after the Spartans’ pregame dinner (which is held in the football team room of the new Farmer Field House) they’ll hear from team chaplain Jerry Varnado, and Alexander himself brings the proceedings to a close with a pep talk for the team. Bustle said the Eagles have a devotional prior to the meal and also have time for a little pre-kickoff fellowship.
“There’s definitely a team-building aspect to the meal,” said Alexander. “We talk about the five things we can control – hydration, nutrition, sleep, rehab and our mindset. With our pregame meal we get nutrition and mindset, which are the most important things two or three hours before a game.”
“It gets everybody together for a few minutes of devotion and then to eat,” said Bustle. “The players sit with their buddies. Back in the day, I worked for some head coaches that didn’t want anybody to say a word during the pregame meal. But I don’t worry about that – they enjoy themselves and they enjoy each other. I just don’t let it get too loud.” COVID-19 and road games – especially during the playoffs where teams might have to travel to the other side of the state for a postseason battle – often require some improvisation when it comes to nutrition but the parents who supervise the pregame meals for Athens Academy and Athens Christian have proven to be up to the challenge, with box lunches serving as the order of the day.
When The Spartans traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, in late August, Alexander said the players were the beneficiaries of their parents’ long-range planning skills.
“COVID has changed the way we do a lot of things,” said Alexander. “You can’t just call ahead and take a huge team into a restaurant now. A lot of restaurants aren’t really interested in hosting a big group of people at this time.
“When we went to Charlotte. We fed the players a box lunch at 12, put them on the bus with snacks and drinks, and when we got there, Charlotte Country Day allowed us to use their cafeteria and we catered the meal in. The parents worked really hard on getting that set up.”
A parent’s perspective
At Athens Academy and Athens Christian, the key to a successful pregame meal depends on the diligence of those involved. Both Alexander and Bustle were appreciative of the lengths parents go to in order to make sure their sons are properly fueled for the evening ahead.
“We have our pregame meal in the dining hall, prepared by parents,” said Bustle. “Carrie Martin has formed a group of anybody and everybody that can help, cook food, donate money, that type of thing… It’s hard to please everybody but these families that are doing this are awesome. After the game, that same group provides sandwiches, chips and drinks to the players.”
“A lot of parents like to be involved in the pregame meal, to see the tradition of it,” said Alexander. “They want to make sure their boys have the right food and proper fuel to play the game.
“There’s anywhere from eight to 12 moms involved – it looks like a wedding. It’s the darndest thing you’ve ever seen. Our boys eat very well and our parents work hard on it and take great pride in it.”
Catherine Warner has worked on the pregame meal committee at Athens Academy since she was recruited by a “senior mom” when her son Will was a freshman on the team. In the time she’s been involved in the dinner, the numbers of dinners has increased from about 50 to nearly 100.
“It’s a crowded room but it’s a great day on game day,” she said. “I wouldn’t be any other place.”
The Spartans enjoy a variety of culinary offerings through the season and Warner said she surveys the senior players when creating a menu. While much of the meal is catered, Warner said she and other committee members whip up a few homemade treats on a regular basis.
“Last year, the first meal I made my spaghetti and we had three moms prepare chicken tetrazzini and we’ll have one or two meals where moms will do that,” she said. “I have a green bean recipe I prepare for all of them, and last year I made the mac and cheese for three different meals. We also do the fruit and I make my homemade poundcake and we have brownies and cookies. We’ll often make the vegetables, but we usually have the main meat course catered.”
Warner said she keeps two objectives in mind while she and her committee – plus several other Athens Academy moms who roll off and on each week – plan and execute the meal.
“The food is very important because we’re fueling their body not just filling their belly,” she said. “We work with a caterer to make sure we have the right amount of protein, carbs, fruit and veggies, water and hydration. And we want to have a nice atmosphere for the team and the parents – we have a real community and I feel the pregame meal solidifies that and really brings the team and the parents together.”
Her son will graduate in the spring, so Warner’s tenure in the pregame meal world will soon be coming to a close. She said she’ll be close by to lend a helping hand, offer counsel and provide the occasional poundcake.
“It’s a special time,” said Warner, who added one of her favorite moments in each pregame meal comes when the team sings the Johnny Appleseed Prayer. “I had a mom who worked the pregame meal for the first time this week and she came to me and said, ‘I will help you any week that you need. It was so awesome to be with the boys.’ It’s a real special time to see the team together and enjoying that downtime. “It’s every Friday and it’s a lot of work, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on Friday afternoon. …The tradition will continue.”
“(She) told me that I have a very powerful voice and that people listen to it,” Holt said after the game. “She said that I was influencing seniors last year to go to class, get their work done and stuff like that. She told me to not let my voice go quiet, keep it flowing.”
This wasn’t the first time the senior lineman has been told this. Knowing his words have power is something he's lived with for much of his life.
Holt is a guy who thinks before he speaks, as to make sure each of his words have meaning.
“It’s always been important to me for people to hear my words,” Holt said. “I’ve always been the bigger person. I’ve always felt like I’ve had a voice. With my voice, I don’t want to just sit back and not let it be heard.”
He uses his voice in classes, helping his classmates get the most out of his teachers’ lessons. He uses his voice in the weight room, teaching younger players the proper way to lift and improve their bodies. He uses his voice on the field, calling out assignments for the rest of both the offensive and defensive lines.
Holt’s way with words is one his coach’s favorite things about coaching him.
“He’s fun to coach because of the type of player he is,” head coach Josh Alexander said. “Obviously he’s super talented and he’s just fun to be around. The most impressive thing about him is when he speaks. He’s sharp in all aspects of his life.”
As a kid, Holt watched film of his father, Johnerio Holt Sr., playing football. Early on he saw the impact football had on his father’s life and the Athens community.
“(Football is) influential,” Holt said. “I’m looking at (the tapes) like, man he really did something in the Athens community. I’m growing up following his lead. It’s amazing.”
Three games into his senior year with the Spartans, Holt has lived up to the billing of the leadership role his coach envisioned for him. Holt flies to the ball for sacks and hurry-ups. On offense, he paves the way for runners to pick up yardage and gives time for quarterback Sam Bush to throw.
He doesn’t see the bench much, but when he does he’s resting and teaching up the younger players who look up to him.
“My head coach always says in practice to replace yourself,” Holt said. “I personally sit down and think about replacing myself as leaving something better to the community. Everybody makes mistakes. You might miss a tackle or you might not do well on an assignment in class, but the way I see it is as long as you’re building great men and great women that are going out into this world sooner or later, you’re doing something right.”
Holt’s stats, 6-foot-3, 275-pound size and personality has the senior getting looked at from schools across the country.
Air Force, Akron, Army, East Carolina, Furman, Kent State, Liberty and Navy have all offered Holt. All offers except ECU’s have come since February of this year.
“It’s always been a dream (to play college football) and soon it will be a dream come true,” Holt said. “I’m just weighing my options right now. Hopefully sooner or later, I’ll pick a school that I'll commit to and call my next home.”
Holt says the Spartans are capable of winning it all this year, and he wants to do what he can to contribute to their success, starting with himself.
“I want to see myself progress: working on my technique, improving my grades, helping the younger players,” Holt said. “I also want to see our team progress. Our coaches are working everyday to try and help us be our best selves.”
Spartans bring home victory from Charlotte, NC - Oconee Enterprise
Athens Academy’s football team earned its first victory of the season last week.
The Spartans played at Charlotte Country Day School in North Carolina and won 33-9. That improved the team to a 1-1 record.
Josh Alexander, head coach at Athens Academy, said the game was scheduled because the Spartans wanted to showcase their brand in a unique environment.
“We were wanting to take our program on the road and play an out-of-state team, someone like ourselves,” Alexander said. “It was a great trip. We packed up everybody and went up there. Charlotte Country Day was a great host. They were fun to play and they were very hospitable.”
After making the drive to Charlotte, the Spartans wasted little time getting on the board.
Athens Academy forced a safety early on, taking a 2-0 lead. With 3:58 to go in the first quarter, Sam Bush scored on a 3-yard run to make it a 9-0 game.
The first score of the second quarter was a safety, too, this time given up by the Spartans. That allowed Charlotte to cut into the lead and make it 9-2.
Jake Williams improved the Spartans’ advantage to 12-2 with a 25-yard field goal before halftime.
With 7:09 left in the third quarter, Bush connected with Pratt Ferguson on a 48-yard touchdown pass, bringing the score to 19-2.
About six minutes later, Ferguson and Austin McGee combined on a 15-yard touchdown to improve the lead to 26-2.
Charlotte got its first touchdown on a 41-yard fumble recovery with 10:39 left in the game. That cut the lead down to 26-9.
Bush notched his second rushing touchdown with a 2-yard score a couple of minutes later to push the lead out to 33-9.
Last week’s game was a bounce-back performance for the Spartans. They dropped their season opener against Trinity Christian 59-7.
Alexander said he liked the way his players responded to the loss in the days leading up to last week’s road trip.
“It was fun to watch them because, sometimes when you get beat and you get beat like we got beat, it's bad but it's good for the soul at times,” Alexander said. “It sort of humbles you. It made us go back and start over and start working. Our kids did a good job. They do and will do anything that we ask them to do. They show up to work and it's fun to work with them.”
The game at Charlotte marked Bush’s second as the starting quarterback.
He took over the reins of the offense this year following the graduation of his brother, Palmer Bush. The younger Bush was embroiled in a battle for the starting gig until his opponent, newcomer Whit Muschamp, went down with a broken collarbone.
Alexander said he’s noticed progress out of Bush over the course of a scrimmage and two regular season games.
“He is getting better every week,” Alexander said. “He's just so athletic and makes things happen with his legs and his arm. He'll extend plays or he can run the football. There was one play where he got pushed out of the pocket and then planted on his back foot and launched the ball 60 yards. He's just a good athlete, very talented.”
The Spartans got an important piece of their offense back last week. Tre Hawkins returned after missing the season opener due to injury.
Hawkins ran for nearly 150 yards and is cleared moving forward.
In addition to production by Bush, Hawkins and the other offensive stars, the Spartans got a big performance out of their defense.
Athens Academy did not surrender any points defensively. Alexander said a combination of good coaching and dedicated players helps the defense perform at a high level.
“We have a great defensive staff,” he said. “Our defense kept a shutout and they did exactly what they do a lot of times: They played hard and were in the right spots. Our coaches do a good job with them.”
This Friday, the Spartans will host at Augusta Christian School after its originally scheduled road game against Commerce was cancelled.
Athens Academy annually fields a competitive football team which typically advances to the state playoffs. The program focuses on individual skill development within a team environment. An emphasis is placed on team building through cooperation, discipline, and personal growth. A knowledgeable coaching staff provides athletes with a comprehensive understanding of the fundamental and schematic components of football.