Montgomery falls at home against Athens, 35-7
MONTGOMERY — If this was it, Montgomery went down with a fight.
Yes, the Red Raiders lost their regularly-scheduled finale, 35-7, Friday night to playoff-bound Athens on senior night and homecoming.
But no, that four-score final margin is misleading.
And maybe, there will be more to come in this season of uncertainty.
Montgomery allowed an interception return for a touchdown to start, one of a few big plays Athens used to turn a mostly evenly-fought game into its favor.
“Our boys played hard, I just don’t think we had the complete game we had last week,” said Montgomery (3-4) coach Paul Bozella, whose team entered off consecutive wins. “Our defense kept us in this, but when you give up a pick six to start against a team like Athens, that’s hard to beat.”
Devon Deem scored Montgomery’s lone touchdown on a 10-yard screen pass from Logan Almeida in the second quarter. Kaide Drick led Montgomery with 76 yards on 18 rushes. Almeida ran four times for 50 yards.
The Red Raiders were looking to finish their schedule above .500, and they’ve inquired about games next week and next month. Nothing was official Friday night, one that saw Athens only outgain Montgomery by 0.7 yards per play but by much more on the scoreboard.
Caleb Nichols returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown on the first snap and later scored on a second-quarter run before Athens (5-1) pulled away in the second half.
A 14-play, 46 yard drive to start the third quarter ate up nearly 7 and a half minutes for Athens, though it didn’t score a point. A 21-yard coffin-corner punt aimed out of bounds kept the field position edge firmly on the Wildcats’ side through the second half until some later big plays led to more scores.
Shayne Reid ran 20 times for 144 yards for Athens. He rushed for a third-quarter touchdown and his 56-yard punt return set up the final score, a 5-yard J.J. Babcock touchdown reception.
Athens entered as the No. 3 seed in District 4 Class AAA, and the win firmed up a semifinal game next week, possibly with a Danville team that entered Friday as the No. 2 seed.
Bozella said Athens would see Deem “in their sleep” for the pressure he brought Athens’ passing game, and Towanda coach Jack Young said the pressure worked.
“We weren’t picking it up well, but bottom line, our run game is getting better and better. When you run the ball, and I’m an old football coach, if you can run you are gonna’ run it. We’d see it on film. They got better all season long, but we got our will on them,” Young said.
Montgomery’s field position never really recovered in the second half. After trading third-quarter punts, the Red Raiders looked alive after the line bulled over Athens’ line of Leon brothers (Brent and Bradley) to convert a fourth-and-one at the end of the third quarter.
But two plays later, Athens’ Keegan Rude intercepted Logan Almeida and returned it 23 yards to set up Reid’s second touchdown and a 28-7 lead.
Another big play, Reid’s long punt return that started with him picking up a bouncing ball, set up the last score.
Now, it’s up to Montgomery to try and set up the last game, or games.
“We put a bunch of feelers out. But there are a lot of ‘Nos,'” said Bozella, as some teams have games scheduled already as the playoffs also begin for the rest. “It’s hard, I’d love to play. I’ve been aggressive trying to get two more games, just nothing yet.”