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ATHENS — A few minutes into the fourth quarter Friday, undefeated Maroa-Forsyth looked like it may take its first loss.

They were down 20-14, and Athens (5-2) was driving with its misdirecting, run-based offense. On fourth and goal, Athens’ Jack Richards sprinted for the pylon, seeking a potentially game-sealing touchdown.

But he was hit hard and went down at the one-yard line. The Trojan offense then dominated on a 99-yard drive full of runs that would take up most of the fourth quarter and put them up 21-20.

“We were very fortunate to get away with a win,” Maroa-Forsyth coach Josh Jostes said. “The defense got a huge stop when they needed to.”

It was the first game that Maroa-Forsyth (7-0, 7-0 Sangamo Conference) had struggled to win. Following the go-ahead score by Athens in the third quarter, Trojan players were voicing their frustration and had to be told to settle down by coaches. Jostes later called his entire team for a talk.

“I brought them all over and said, ‘That’s not what we do,’” he said. “That’s not what we stand for. And if it’s going to be like that, you’re not going to be a good football team. I thought at that point our kids regrouped and our senior leadership took over and we were able to make a play.”

For Athens (5-2, 5-2), it was a demoralizing loss.

“There are no moral victories in this game,” Athens coach Ryan Knox said. “Our kids wanted that as bad as I can remember. Our kids were extremely excited to play them. But we have to try to find a way to build on it.”

Although Maroa found a way to win, Jostes and the Trojans players recognized that it was a poor showing.

“We should be playing a lot better,” said Maroa's Kadinn Morris, who snatched an interception to end Athens’ final drive of the game. “We got lucky this time.”

“It wasn’t a lot of fun,” Jostes said. “Ultimately, we’ll take the win and move on. Hats off to coach Knox and Athens. I thought they played their hearts out and gave us all we wanted.”

Maroa-Forsyth’s Gavin Clifton powered the Trojan offense against Athens, running for 108 yards and a score. He also took a screen pass on a third and long for a 60-yard touchdown. Quarterback Ian Benner had an off night — je jumped under pressure and threw a goal line interception on the first drive, forced a deep ball that was picked, and fumbled as he brought the wet ball back to throw.

For Athens, Richards came up with an interception and a fourth-and-short QB sneak that he took untouched for a touchdown in the first quarter. Nic Laird churned out plenty of long runs as part of the Warriors’ wing offense.

The Warriors lost, but Knox said it’s acceptable way they did.

“I thought our effort was phenomenal,” he said. “Last year, when we went over there, our kids laid down. We wanted to make sure we didn’t lay down this year. Our kids played hard. We came up a little short, but you’ve just gotta give them credit. I mean they went on 99-yard drive to win the game. They’re a good football team and they found a way to win.”

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