Greater Athens January 2022 - Page 10



Athens ready for next challenge after tough year

Athens coach Zac Harrell knew the 2021 season would present some challenges after a 4-0 start to the year .
Once district hit , the Hornets went 1-5 the remainder of the way as Harrell said the kids stuck together through tough situations .
“ I was super proud of our kids with the way that they battled and fought ,” Harrell said . “ I definitely think our program has improved drastically from year to year . I thought in year three with the way our kids stuck together and the way we continued to battle showed glimpses of being able to beat anybody we play . To end the season like we did in Week 10 at home against Mabank was a huge win for our program and for our kids moving into the offseason .”
Athens finished the 2021 season with a 5-5 overall record and 1-5 in District 9-4A , Division I play , which put them in seventh place in the district .
“ The first thing is our goal was to make the playoffs and make a run in the playoffs and we fell short of that ,” Harrell said . “ That is not on our kids but that is first on me . We have to do a better job this offseason of preparing our kids to win games where the competition is tough . I was disappointed that didn ’ t accomplish what we set out to do which was make the playoffs .”
Harrell spoke highly of receivers Jaden Crane and Jorien Ray , running back JeCorey Roberts and junior quarterback
Ty Arroyo .
Arroyo finished the year with 2,111 passing yards to go with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions . He also rushed for 773 yards and 12 more touchdowns .
“ I thought he ( Arroyo ) had a great season . His ability to run our offense was huge in his development and from his statistical standpoint was a huge improvement ,” Harrell said . “ We threw for over 2,000 yards and he rushed for almost 800 yards . Those are big time numbers and he had a huge year . He grew as a leader and what we are looking for from him this year is that leadership role . He has a ton of ability and we have seen him grow up in this program and is a special kid to me .”
On the defensive side of the ball , Harrell was high on the play of Gage Friedrich and praised how hard his unit fought under coordinator Flint Bigham .
“ I thought defensively , we started out really good in non-district ,” Harrell said . “ I think the Chapel Hill game kind of shell shocked us , and we felt good about ourselves . They jumped out on us early and I think that shocked our coaching staff and took us a little bit to get us playing to the level that we could . We had some injuries over there with Jamauri Manning and Jaxson Stiles being injured . Those were huge and they were playing at a high level . I was super proud of our effort and execution goes back to us as coaches .”
When it comes to realignment , the coaches were hoping to see them in Class 4A , Division II but after the recent numbers fans could see them back in Class 4A , Division I .
“ We will be right on the line with one of the biggest schools in 4A , Division II or we will be one of the smallest in 4A , Division I ,” the coach said . “ We can ’ t really get wrapped up and to think about that , our focus has to be on being one of the best football teams that we can be in building our program . Those things are out of our control and we will find out in February what district we are in . We feel like we have a lot of talented kids returning and those that are bought into our program .”
Harrell said when it comes to the future of Hornet athletics in the football program , expect big things out of the team .
“ The future of the Hornet football program is very bright . There is no doubt about it and our kids are bought in to what we are trying to accomplish ,” Harrell said . “ We expect and we


10 Greater Athens Magazine | January 2022