Red Hawks Look to Rebound Against Royal Oak
Running game will make Athens a “force to be reckoned with.”
Following its first loss of the season, the Troy Athens High School football team will look to get back on track when it hosts Royal Oak in an Oakland Activities Association Red Division matchup Friday night.
Last week, Athens (2-1) suffered its first loss of the season, a 40-20 defeat at Clarkston. The Red Hawks got off to a slow start against the Wolves, but did manage to rally for 20 second-half points.
Despite the result, Athens coach Josh Heppner said the team can take away some positives from last week’s game.
“We were inside the red zone four times and didn’t come away with points, which is frustrating, but I liked seeing the way we moved the ball,” Heppner said. “We did not play our best game against them, and Clarkston with the tradition they have, that’s the last week you want to play a game like that.”
Heppner said was pleased with the play of junior quarterback James Ortmann, who played in relief of senior Ben Bartnowak.
“James stepped up and threw the ball well against their (first-string defensive backs),” Heppner said. “He marched 60 yards and threw a strike for a touchdown, and he did a great job for us.”
Ortmann practiced with the first team on Thursday, and Heppner said he will start against a Royal Oak team that has lost two straight after winning its opening game.
Heppner said the keys for the Red Hawks moving forward will be to play fundamentally sound football, minimize mistakes and to establish the run. The Red Hawks’ rushing duo of seniors Kris Gervin and Lonnie Bolden topped 190 yards combined on the ground in each of Athens’ first two games.
“If we run like we did against Mott and Pontiac, and even if we get some runs like the big runs against Clarkston, we’re going to be a forced to be reckoned with all year,” Heppner said.
Royal Oak (1-2), will also be looking to rebound following consecutive losses to Oakland Activities Association foes Troy and West Bloomfield.
Last week, the Ravens faced a 20-0 halftime deficit to West Bloomfield before rallying to get within six points in the third quarter. However, the Lakers pulled away late and hung on for a 39-21 victory.
For Royal Oak, slowing down Gervin and Bolden will be critical if the team hopes to earn its second win of the season.
Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.