Howard Hanna Professionals
Hornets Down Athens 26-12 To Even Up Season Record

Hornets Down Athens 26-12 To Even Up Season Record

By: Ed Weaver  /  September 16, 2023  /  Photo: Nick Coyle

The Wellsboro Varsity Football team defeated Athens 26-12 on the road to bring their record back up to .500 on Friday, September 15.

Wellsboro had their best offensive performance of the season to date, accumulating 314 yards on 44 plays despite taking a couple series to kick into gear. Once Wellsboro got going, however, Athens had a hard time slowing them down.

After both teams traded three-and-outs twice to start the game Wellsboro put together a three-play 50-yard drive on their third possession. Taking over at the Athens' 44, junior Ryder Bowen ripped off a 25-yard run down inside the Wildcat 20. A pair of Wellsboro penalties backed them up but a pass interference penalty on the Wildcats setup the Hornets with a 3rd and 13 from the 23. On the next play, junior Will Gastrock called his own number and broke a handful of tackles on his way to a 23-yard touchdown with just under two minutes to play in the opening quarter. The extra point was no good, giving Wellsboro an early 6-0 lead.

The Wildcats mustered only 16 plays before the Hornets' next scoring drive early in the second quarter. Similar to last week the Hornet defense came up with another blocked punt, setting Wellsboro's offense up in great field position at the Athens 40. It took only one play for the score, as Gastrock found sophomore Jonathan Carl wide open in the Wildcat secondary for the 40-yard score, increasing the Hornets' lead to 12-0 after a failed two-point conversion attempt with 9:59 remaining.

Athens would then finally get some offense going on an six play drive that chewed up the majority of the second half clock. With 15 seconds left before the half Sean Peters hauled in an 11-yard pass from Connor Davidson that cut Wellsboro's lead in half.

"We told the kids that we were in control of the game and that this was our football game," head coach Matt Hildebrand said of his talk at halftime. "We established that early and let them back in it, and we wanted to go back at it in the second half and put the nail in the coffin early."

That's exactly what the Hornets did to start the second half. Wellsboro put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by a 26-yard run by Bowen a 26-yard pass from Gastrock to sophomore Marek Mascho, and a 14-yard pass from Gastrock to senior Hayes Campbell on 3rd down that setup Wellsboro with a 1st and goal from the 6. Two plays later Bowen found the end zone for the first time on the night to extend the lead back to 19-6 following Carl's extra point with 8:17 left.

Athens again would answer on another sustained drive. This time, the Wildcats ran 15 plays that culminated in a Davidson one-yard run. The following two-point conversion pass off an errant snap on the extra point try was no good, making it 19-12 in favor of Wellsboro.

The Hornets answered again on their ensuing drive going 77 yards on 10 plays. Wellsboro kept the ball on the ground to keep the clock running and eventually moved into Athens' territory on a 25-yard scamper by Gastrock. After a holding penalty and back-to-back sacks backed the Hornets back up near midfield, Gastrock connected with Campbell again, this time for 18 yards, to keep the drive alive and give Wellsboro a first down. Two runs for 21 yards by Bowen, and an Athens personal foul penalty for a helmet-to-helmet hit, setup Wellsboro at the Wildcat 10. A four yard run by Gastrock got the ball down the the Athens 6-yard line, and after an offsides penalty, Bowen capped the drive from three yards out.

Gastrock finished 7-of-13 through the air for 156 yards and a touchdown while Bowen produced 135 yards on 21 carries with a pair of scores. Gastrock also finished with 49 yards rushing on the night. Campbell caught three passes for 67 yards, Marek Mascho snagged a pair of passes for 42 yards, and Carl caught one ball for a 40-yard touchdown.

"We threw the ball well at times but we need to do better on when to give up on a play when its not there and keep the ball," continued Hildebrand. "I really like where our run game went this week, we were able to do a lot on the ground, and that'll help moving us forward. One thing we need to clean up is penalties. Its something that we can control, I'm not going to have any hair left if we keep lining up in the neutral zone, we just have to be smarter at times and know where we're at on the field."

Davidson was 6-for-15 through the air for 36 yards for Athens. He also carried the ball 14 times for 50 yards.Keegan Congdon (35) and Eli Chapman (29) both rushed 7 times on the evening and Sean Peters (4) and Ryan Cook (2) both had 21 yards receiving.

Next up for Wellsboro (2-2, 2-1 NTL Large School Division) is a home date with Towanda next week. The Hornets will look to improve over .500, but will have to stop the Black Knights' Riley Vanderpool to do so.

"He's a very dangerous player and reminds me a lot of Quinn Henry. He's back at QB this year and he's a great runner. If we can contain him, our defense has done a pretty good job so if we can contain him and eliminate the big plays we can compete with them."


About the Author

Ed Weaver Author Bio

Ed Weaver

Ed Weaver is the owner of Circle W Sports in Wellsboro, PA, is the Sports Director for The Home Page Network and the creator of and You can follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook.

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Team Stats Box Score
Score 26 12
1st Downs 15 10
Pass Yards 156 46
Rush Yards 178 115
Total Plays (Yards) 44 (314) 46 (161)
Punts (Avg. Yards) 3 (29.0) 6 (20.3)
Penalties (Yards) 10 (70) 11 (69)
Turnovers 2 1