BLOSSBURG - After a back-breaking, 65-yard kickoff return by North Penn to open the second half, Athens restored some momentum when the defense intercepted a ball at the one yard line.
Even though the interception helped, it did little to change the intensity of the game as Athens now faced a 99-yard drive to score. The Wildcats drove down the field, getting 85 yards from Tyler Birdsall on four carries.
Birdsall also set up a 30-yard touchdown after he broke off a 41-yard carry in the fourth quarter, and the score ended any chance of a rally as North Penn dropped its second consecutive game to open the season with a 30-12 loss to Athens at Island Park.
Birdsall ended the game with 164 yards on the ground, but none were more important than is 85 as part of Athens 99-yard drive.
"It was huge," Athens coach Jack Young said. "We challenged our kids at halftime, because we felt like we didn't play in the first half."
Athens moved the ball well in the first half. The Wildcats had two drives over 10 plays, but only had three points to show for it. The team's second possession, which resulted in a 10-play drive, ended when Troy Stivason, who completed 11 of 20 pass attempts for 89 yards and a score, booted a 43-yard field goal through the uprights for the brief three-point lead.
"He's got a hell of a foot," Young said. "He's a good kid and he's getting better as a quarterback. For us, a kick like that doesn't surprise us."
North Penn's opening drive did little to build any momentum despite being in front of the hometown crowd for the first time.
And as North Penn struggled, Athens took advantage as it marched two long drives down the field on its first two drives. The Wildcats converted three crucial third downs on the drives.
The first came after a holding penalty turned a first down conversion into a third and 12. The Wildcats converted the long third down attempt when Stivason hit Ray McDougan for a 17-yard pick-up. The Wildcats accomplished a similar conversion three plays later when Mike Estes broke through the line on a counter to for a 15-yard pick-up.
Stivason and McDougan connected on the Wildcats next drive to convert two big third downs. Stivason hit McDougan for an eight-yard pick-up on the Wildcats first third down attempt. The two hooked up again for a 23-yard conversion that resulted in the 43-yard field goal by Stivason for a, 3-0, Athens lead. McDougan seemed to be Stivason's go-to target as the two connected for six catches for 37 yards and a score.
Despite last week's opening game being a loss, Taylor Hillson played well. He led two scoring drives, ending both with touchdown passes. He also rushed for a team-high 37 yards on seven carries.
The Panthers offense was out of sink thanks to a superior Lancer pass rush, but settled in the second half. And with the added protection, Hillson displayed a nice understanding of the offense. He was able to get North Penn within 13 points, but a late Loyalsock rallied ended any chance of a comeback.
Hillson continued to build off that poise in Friday night's contest. He was able to get the ball distributed to his top targets, while once again providing a nice push in the running game.
Hillson, who attempted 30 passes in the team's week one loss to Loyalsock, continued at that pace. After the team was forced into a three-and-out on its first possession, Hillson, after missing a wide open Sam Rotella two plays prior, tossed a 40-yard pass to Bohnert.
Bohnert timed the jump perfectly, pulling the ball away from the defender and gaining and extra ten yards. After the end of the first quarter, Hillson hit Bohnert again for a 20-yard touchdown. Of Hillson's nine completions, four went to Bohnert, who finished with 104 yards and two touchdowns.