THE PLAINS, Ohio — On paper, it looked like a mismatch — with 5-1 Athens hosting the 3-3 Meigs Marauders.
The Bulldogs, with a high powered offense, looked to be the favorite, but in the end the Bulldogs stopped Meigs twice in the final 5:25 in Bulldog territory to post the slimmest of 19-18 wins.
The Marauders held an 18-7 lead in at the half, but two third period touchdowns by the Bulldogs ended up being the difference in the contest.
The Marauders received a break early in the contest when Chase Sammons fumbled a Landon Acree punt and Jake Perry recovered for Meigs at the Bulldog 12. Four plays later, Zach Helton kept it for the score from three yards out and a 6-0 Marauder lead.
The Marauders forced a four-and-out and Meigs took over at its own 23. The Marauders drove to their own 47, and Helton hit Weston Baer on second down with a 45-yard pass down the sideline for a first and goal at the Bulldog 8.
On fourth and goal from the three, Helton again found Baer for the score and Meigs held the early 12-0 lead with 2:43 left in the period.
The Bulldogs scored just six plays later, when their outstanding junior quarterback Clay Davis hit Robert Dickelman for a 61-yard scoring pass. Drake George pulled the Bulldogs to within 12-7 with the extra point with 1:16 left in the first period.
Baer set up the Marauders’ next score when he picked off a Davis pass and returned it 17 yards to the Meigs 43. Ten plays later, Helton hit Baer from 22 yards out with 1:42 left in the half. The extra points proved to be huge, Helton hit a leaping Zach Bartrum in the end zone, but Bartrum’s toe just came down on the out of bounds line.
Athens had 1:41 to work with in the first half after the Meigs kickoff ended up at the Meigs 12. But three straight Davis passes fell incomplete. George was then called on to attempt a 29-yard field goal, but it was wide and the Marauders went into the locker room on top 18-7.
The Bulldogs received the second half kickoff and quickly made things interesting with a seven-play, 60-yard drive. Evan Adams went the final five yards for the score.
The Marauders then drove to the Bulldog 16, but two straight passes from Helton fell incomplete to end the drive. The Bulldogs took over and drove 84 yards, with Adams scoring from three yards out. The extra points were no good but the Bulldogs held their first lead of the night at 19-18 with 3:55 in the third period.
Meigs threatened in the fourth period after driving to the Bulldog 23. But, facing a fourth and 21, Helton’s pass fell incomplete with 5:35 left in the contest.
The Marauders took over on downs with 41 seconds left at the Bulldog 22. Meigs quickly drove to the Athens 31, but Helton’s pass on the game’s last play was picked off by Easton McCollum … and the Bulldogs escaped with the win.
For the second week in a row, Meigs had trouble getting the ground game going gaining only 24 yards in 35 tries. Landon Acree gained 11 in one try to lead Meigs on a fake punt. Lane Cullums added 12 carries for just nine yards.
Helton was 18 of 39 in the air for 289 yards and an interception. Cole Adams caught six passes for 120 yards, Baer had four grabs for 96 yards and Zach Bartrum hauled in five for 43.
Evan Adams led the Bulldogs on the ground with 172 yards in 24 carries. Mikel Casteel added 63 in 10 tries. Davis was held somewhat in check by Meigs as he completed eight of 22 with an interception for 131 yards.
Chase Sammons caught three for 31, Easton McCollum added two for 17 and Dickelman one for 61.
Athens (6-1, 3-0) will travel to Wellston next week, while Meigs (3-4, 2-2) will head to Point Pleasant in a non-conference contest.
Dave Harris is a Sports Correspondent for Ohio Valley Publishing.