By JUSTIN RAINS
Heading into Friday night’s matchup here at Wildcat Stadium, the Palestine football team had been able to move the ball on the ground all season.
Athens, on the other hand, hadn’t been able to stop anyone’s rushing attack.
Friday, both trends held true as the Wildcats ran wild over the Hornets in a 49-0, blowout victory.
Palestine ran for 237 yards in the victory, scoring basically at will in the first half.
After their first possession, the Wildcats scored on five-straight possessions to end the first half.
On three of those five possessions, Palestine scored from at least 35 yards out.
Darrius Stephens opened the scoring for the Wildcats with a 37-yard run to put his team up 7-0.
After the Wildcat defense forced an Athens punt, Ben Luckett went to work.
The junior scored on a 44-yard run up the middle to extend the Palestine lead to 14-0, and the Wildcats never really looked back.
Another Athens punt and a decent return by Luckett gave Palestine the ball near midfield, and it took Palestine less than a minute to again drive down to score, a drive that Luckett capped with a two-yard scoring run to put the Wildcats up 21-0.
Athens best scoring chance of the game came on its next drive, when the Hornets put together a prolonged series for only the second time on the night.
The drive stalled right inside the Palestine 20, however and Athens attempt at a 35-yard field goal went wide left.
From there, Palestine put together another drive, but Athens appeared to be in business when a penalty and a stop forced a second-and-33 for Palestine from the Wildcats’ own 43.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, someone forgot to tell Palestine.
Linebacker Brian Gummelt took the snap and found quarterback Gee Clark on what appeared to be a wide receiver screen pass. But, instead of running the ball, Clark set his feet to throw.
He hit a wide-open Jordan Anthony in stride down the home sideline, and Anthony did the rest en route to a 57-yard touchdown pass-and-catch and a 28-0 Palestine lead.
The Wildcats added another touchdown as time expired in the first half, when Clark found Kenneth Weaver for a 43-yard touchdown.
The game was Clark’s best as a varsity quarterback. The sophomore threw for 208 yards — more than his season total entering the game — and three touchdowns.
As bad as the final scoreline looked, it could have been worse.
Luckett ran a punt back for a touchdown, but it was called back for a penalty, and overall, the Wildcats racked up 90 yards in infractions.
Luckett finished the night with 111 yards rushing, despite only carrying the ball four times. Stephens ran for 64 yards and Juan Yarbrough had 55 yards on eight carries.
Anthony caught five passes — all in the first half — for 129 yards, his most productive night of the season.
For Athens, offense was hard to come by.
The Hornets gained only 161 yards of offense on the night, and never got closer to the endzone than the Palestine 17-yard line.
Anthony Sanders led the team with 41 yards rushing and finished 5-of-15 with 67 yards passing.
Devin Hall ran for 36 yards in the loss.