AOTW: Bush taking unselfish approach to both sides of the ball - Oconee Enterprise
Athens Academy senior Palmer Bush woke up sore on Saturday morning. He’s started 26 games as the Spartans’ quarterback over the last two seasons.
He’d never felt like he felt on Saturday morning.
Bush didn’t gripe about it. He rolled out of bed and began preparing his body for Friday’s contest against 7A opponent Berkmar High School.
Bush helped the Spartans to a 24-7 win over Commerce High School on Friday night. Bush looked like his normal cool and efficient self while piloting the Spartans’ offense. Bush was 18-for-26 for 239 yards with two touchdowns through the air. Bush ran for 50 yards on 10 carries.
His performance has made Bush this week’s Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation/Oconee Enterprise Athlete of the Week.
Bush’s added some responsibility to his resume for 2020. He also shuttled in and out at cornerback on Friday night.
“It’s a little bit different, you’ve got to condition yourself a lot better the week of a game,” Bush said. “I like it. You’ve got to be in the game at all times.”
Bush has already found some advantages gifted to him by his long list of experiences as a quarterback.
“As a quarterback you know every position and what’s going,” Bush said. “It makes the game move slower. You process things faster and you figure out what’s going on.”
When last season ended Bush expected to continue his streak of starts at the quarterback position. Athens Academy head coach Josh Alexander approached Bush during the summer about the possibility of playing some defense in 2020.
Bush’s initial reaction was immediately about the team’s needs.
“I was happy to do whatever I’ve got to do for us to win as many games as we can,” Bush said. “It’s a team thing. It’s not about me.”
It’s a characteristic Alexander has admired about his senior quarterback for a long time.
“Everything he does is so professional and he’s so well-mannered and he’s always looking out for other people,” Alexander said. “It’s not just our athletes, he’s always looking out for people in the community and he’s well liked. He likes everybody. He’s always positive. He’s up for anything we ask him to do. His parents have done just an excellent job. He’s been really fun to coach.”
Oconee Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation/Oconee Enterprise Athlete of the Week is chosen by the sports staff of The Oconee Enterprise. You are welcome to email nominations firstname.lastname@example.org Monday at 10 a.m.
Here's a look at Georgia's teams ranked on a consensus of five polls (AJC – Atlanta Journal-Constitution/GHSF Daily; GPB – Georgia Public Broadcasting; SC – Score Atlanta; Max – Maxwell Ratings; and MP – MaxPreps).
Separation continues between Athens-area’s best teams and others with work remaining to reach the state playoffs.
The good news is that there’s time to solve problems for those near the bottom as no area teams have started region play, which is the only record that matters for playoff berths.
So far in Athens, the contenders are evident.
The Week 4 Power Rankings reflect who, as of now, can plan to make playoff runs deep into December.
1.Oconee County(1st last week) — A 24-7 win over Clarke Central continued the Warriors’ (3-0) impressive start. No need to move them out of the top spot until it’s deemed necessary, even if others below have stood out with critical victories so far.
2.Jefferson(2nd) — A 28-14 win over five-star QB Gunner Stockton and Rabun County, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, was one of the more notable wins for the Dragons (2-0) in recent years. They have all the tools needed to make a deep playoff run, and the Dragons have opened their season looking like one of the best state, much less the area. It won’t take much of a slip from Oconee County for the Dragons to claim the area’s top ranking.
3. Athens Academy (3rd) — The Spartans’ (2-0) defensive performance Friday against Commerce was legendary, holding the Tigers’ offense to around 60 total yards. And that was after Commerce nearly racked up 600 yards of offense the week before. More performances like that and Athens Academy could soon be making a case to rise to the top.
4.Prince Avenue Christian(4th) — There was little challenge for the Wolverines (2-1) Friday night as they rolled Providence Christian 73-0. Their next three games will be more challenging, leading right into the Region 8-A showdown against Athens Academy.
5.Athens Christian(7th) — Off to their best start in over two decades, the Eagles (3-0) get a bye before facing Mount Vernon Presbyterian, which is likely to make them 4-0 as they head into the meat of their schedule. The Oct. 16 game against Providence Christian will be the final tuneup before the Region 8-A gauntlet.
6.Commerce(5th) — The Tigers (2-1) were held under 60 yards of total offense by Athens Academy, exposing several flaws in what had been a high-powered attack. They’ll look to get back on track this week against Elbert County.
7.Clarke Central(6th) — Through two games, the Gladiators (1-1) haven’t looked like the team many thought they’d be. It gets a final non-region tuneup this week against Buford, which Clarke Central surprisingly upset last year to win the Region 8-5A title.
8.Madison County(NR) — The Red Raiders (1-1) rebounded from a loss in Week 1 and a quarantine-influenced cancellation in Week 2 to beat Apalachee.
9.Winder-Barrow(9th) — Back-to-back close losses to Eastside and Glynn Academy keep the Bulldoggs (1-2) in the Power Rankings, but it will need to win against Cedar Shoals after a bye week to stay in the Top 10.
10.East Jackson(NR) — The Eagles (1-0) went to overtime, but got a season-opening win for just the third time in the past decade.
Athens Academy defense dominates, shuts down Commerce’s high-powered offense - ABH
Athens Academy’s defense stifled Commerce’s triple option attack, Palmer Bush passed for 226 yards and the Spartans, ranked No. 2 in Class A Private, defeated Commerce 24-7 Friday night at Slaughter Field in Athens.
Athens Academy(2-0) allowed just 58 yards to Commerce’s proficient offense, a week after theTigers(2-1) rolled up 580 in a 32-14 win over Union County.
After rushing for 220 yards in his first two games, Commerce’s Dreylan Martin managed just 15 yards on eight carries. Athens Academy also limited freshman Sammy Brown to just four yards on four carries after he totaled more than 250 yards of total offense in his first two high school games.
Bush did most of his damage in the first half, tallying 163 yards passing that included a 26-yard scoring strike toDeion Colzieto give the Spartans a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
He later connected with Ethan Connelly on an 11-yard score as the Spartans opened the second half with a 13-play, 80-yard drive that took more than half of the quarter to complete.
Bush finished 19 of 27, his top target being Colzie who finished with 121 yards on eight catches.
Athens Academy turned to its running game for most of the second half, collecting 140 of its 178 rushing yards after intermission.
Charlie Chisolm, who scored on a 3-yard run in the first quarter, had 22 carries for 105 yards, but 73 of those yards came on 16 second-half rushes.
Eleven penalties for 107 yards likely prevented more points from the Spartans.
“We thought our guys up front had been playing well and we wanted to challenge them that we had to get better at running the football,” Athens Academy coach Josh Alexander said. “Overall, we were really happy, other than the penalties, with how everybody played.”
The lone spark of the night for Commerce, ranked No. 7 in Class A Public, was a 95-yard kickoff return by Brown.
The freshman broke three tackles, veered toward Athens Academy’s sideline around the 40-yard line and picked up the blocking needed to go untouched the final 60 yards.
It was the only play of the night over 14 yards for the Tigers.
The Spartans’ drive to open the second half was more than a lone play, but it was the tone setter for the remainder of the game.
Realizing the effective defense of the Spartans, Alexander slowed the game and lessened Commerce’s opportunities for possessions.
It didn’t seem to matter much, as Commerce could only manage two or three yards each play.
Stat of the Night
Athens Academy ran 57 plays and picked up 15 first downs while Commerce managed 30 plays and just three first downs, two coming on its first drive.
The Tigers punted six times and fumbled on a fourth-and-2 at the Athens Academy 35, their only time in Spartans’ territory for the night.
What it means
Not much in the way of state or region purposes, as the teams no longer compete in Region 8-A.
But it gives the state some clarity as to who can contend for state titles in the public and private classifications.
As for Athens Academy, the Spartans’ defense proved that it has the chops to hold up during the playoffs.
For Commerce, work is left to be done to compete for a public state championship.
Three things we learned
1. Athens Academy’s defense is its strength: The stats speak for themselves. Limiting a high-powered offense like Commerce’s to under 60 yards is eye-opening for Class A Private teams throughout the state, who should be on high alert once the playoffs roll around.
2. Commerce’s offense not as explosive as thought: While, yes, that had a lot to do Friday night with Athens Academy’s defense, there still should have been a play or two bust out to match the Tigers’ first two weeks of excellence.
When its rushing attack was limited, the passing game fizzled as well, completing just two of six pass attempts for 17 yards.
3. The Spartans found a running back: When the Spartans needed Chisolm, he came through.
After intermission, when the clock was in its favor, Athens Academy leaned heavily on the senior back and he grounded and pounded in chunks of five to seven yards per carry.
It was a good balance to Bush’s big night passing.
They said it
“Our kids are playing hard, our coaches do a good job and we’re just real proud of what they did tonight. They played a really good offense.” — Josh Alexander
Despite its dominating defense, Bush’s stats through the air and on the ground (50 yards on 11 carries) were the reasons Athens Academy scored any points.
The senior consistently hit receivers in stride and trusted Colzie to use his size on several occasions, including a 44-yard connection on the Spartans’ first offensive play of the game, when the four-star receiver went up and over Commerce receivers for the big play.
Athens Academy — The Spartans scheduled Class 7A Berkmar to fill a hole in its schedule left by coronavirus cancellations.
Commerce — The Tigers return home to face Elbert County.
The entire state knows that the ball tends to head in the direction of number 18 for Athens Academy. The Spartans used Senior Deion Colzie to set the tone on Friday night.
The first offensive play was drawn up for him.
He delivered a 54-yard catch over a defender and a roar toward the Athens Academy sideline. Colzie snagged four catches for 111 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. After that, there was little doubt.
The Spartans rolled to a 24-7 win over Commerce High School.
“I take on that responsibility,” Colzie said. “We had in the gameplan all week that was going to be the first play. I had it in my mind that if he threw a catchable ball, then I had to come down with it to set the tone for the game.”
The well-known and highly touted receiver did what the Spartan faithful have come to expect in his four years as a starter. Colzie ended the game with seven catches for 141 yards and the touchdown.
The Spartans were hampered with cramps and penalties throughout the night, opening a few eyes towards things that may be question marks or points of improvement in the weeks to come.
The Spartans did answer a question about their team on Friday night. With Len’Neth Whitehead and Kurt Knisely now in the Southeastern Conference, the Spartans turned to a soccer player to carry their rushing attack.
Senior Charlie Chisolm grabbed a hold of the running back position on Friday night. Chisolm carried 21 times for 92 yards and a touchdown. He also caught three passes for 11 yards.
Chisolm hadn’t played football since peewee days. He only ventured out onto the football field in 2020 because his club team’s season was canceled.
On Friday night, his soccer backgrounds kept him upright as bouncing in and out of potential tackles. Chisolm remembers watching what Knisely and Whitehead did for the Spartans over the previous four years.
He doesn’t feel he compares. He has found his own niche so far in 2020.
“I’m very different from both of them, they’re big football monsters,” Chisolm said with a laugh. “I’m just a little quick soccer guy, so I’m just going to try doing that.”
Chisolm has the trust of his teammates after only two games in 2020.
“I’m excited for a kid that hasn’t played high school football before this year,” Colzie said. “He’s extremely talented. I feel like he’s just now getting the hang of it. Throughout the season he’ll improve, and I think he’s a great addition to the team.”
The Spartans walked away happy with their performance on Friday night. They were forced to sit for a week when North Carolina didn’t allow high school football in 2020. The Spartans were scheduled to host Charlotte County Day after their win over Trinity Christian in the first week of the season.
The Spartans were able to keep the Tigers’ triple option under control most of the night. The Tigers’ lone touchdown was a kickoff returned for a touchdown by freshman Sammy Brown.
The Spartans held the Tigers to 67 total yards. The Spartans' passing game was effective. Palmer Bush went 18 of 26 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Bush also ran for 50 yards.
Athens Academy head coach Josh Alexander admits there are things that need to be corrected, but for a team in only their second game, the Spartans didn’t have many negatives on Friday night.
“We were happy with the way we threw the ball, ran the ball and caught the ball at times tonight,” Alexander said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re eating right and hydrating to take care of our bodies a little bit better. I think everything else will take care of itself.”
The match up with Commerce had been a Region 8A Private contest in recent years. After the realignment, the Spartans and Tigers are now in separate classifications for region play with CHS now in 1A Public.
Alexander felt it was a game worth playing. It’s been a highly contested one. With Friday’s win the Spartans tied the series at 14-14. The Tigers and Spartans have a healthy rivalry and when the game is done, both teams have improved. That was the case on Friday night for the Spartans.
“This game every year is fun,” Alexander said. “They’ve been playing this game for a long time. It needs to be played. It’s a great little rivalry. It’s clean, it’s fun and the coaches on Commerce’s staff are just great men. We just like playing it. It makes us better. They’re physical. This is the most physical team we play.”
The Spartans will host 7A Berkmar High School next Friday night.
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.