Troy Athens’ Ground Game Dominates in 56-0 Win Over Royal Oak
Red Hawks score early and often in lopsided game to improve their record to 3-1 on the season.
Troy Athens rebounded emphatically from its first loss of the season, as the Red Hawks rushed for 388 yards as a team and defeated Royal Oak, 56-0, in an Oakland Activities Association Red Division game Friday night.
The Red Hawks had 12 different players run the ball in the game, none of whom carried it more than three times. Senior running back Lonnie Bolden had two carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns, while juniors Sam Haskell and Joe Shields each had touchdown runs of more than 80 yards.
“We have multiple backs that, whenever they get the ball, they can go for a touchdown,” Bolden said. “We’ve been working hard since the offseason and it’s paying off.”
Quarterbacks Ben Bartnowak and James Ortmann also scored rushing touchdowns for Athens, while Bolden added a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown to round out the scoring.
Athens coach Josh Heppner said part of the team’s game plan was to keep the running game simple.
“We know that we have some very effective tailbacks at multiple levels – first, second and third string,” Heppner said. “Our big plays came off of our base run game.”
Heppner said he was particularly impressed with Bolden’s play on both sides of the ball.
“Lonnie’s amazing, he’s a tremendous athlete and I expect to see him at the next level,” Heppner said. “He’s grown up and matured so much since his junior year, and it’s really shown. I’m very proud of the way he’s produced on the field, and off the field, the type of leader that he is.”
The game got out of hand early as Royal Oak (1-3) fumbled on its second play of the game, and Athens linebacker Matt Fitzpatrick scooped up the loose ball and ran 29 yards for a touchdown.
By the time Athens had run four offensive plays, the Red Hawks already led 21-0. Athens took a 49-0 lead into halftime, and a running clock was used for the entire second half.
Defensively, Athens earned its first shutout of the season. Heppner said Royal Oak used some formations that he didn’t expect, but that the team was still well-prepared for the Ravens’ attack.
“Our guys just stepped up and they made big plays when we needed to make big plays,” Heppner said. “That’s what wins ball games — when we can capitalize on turnovers that the defense makes. It doesn’t always have to be on the offense’s shoulders.”
For Royal Oak, the loss extended the team’s losing streak to three games, and the Ravens are winless in OAA play. Royal Oak coach Jeff Hill said the Ravens will continue to work hard in the upcoming weeks.
“The thing that we liked about what happened tonight is that our kids did fight,” Hill said. “Like we tell them all the time, this is a game, but it’s a game that teaches you lifelong lessons. We wanted to come out in the second half and continue to fight, regardless of what the score was.”
Hill said he knew coming into the game that the Ravens would have to battle hard to slow down the potent Athens ground game.
“We game-planned all week long to try and stop them, and we just didn’t have the night that we thought we were going to,” Hill said. “Unfortunately, we came out and made some mistakes, the snowball kept building and it rolled downhill pretty fast.”
Athens will play its homecoming game next week against Rochester, while Royal Oak will travel to face the defending state champion, Lake Orion.