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Athens' Julius Jones gets a hardy greeting by four Decatur defenders in the first half of the Red Raiders' 35-7 win at Ogle Stadium in Decatur on Friday night.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Athens' Julius Jones gets a hardy greeting by four Decatur defenders in the first half of the Red Raiders' 35-7 win at Ogle Stadium in Decatur on Friday night.

River City's winning ways
Red Raiders cruise 35-7 past defending Class 5A champs

By Ross Dellenger
sports@decaturdaily.com 340-2460

Decatur coach Jere Adcock wasn't lying when he said that rankings don't mean anything to his players.

Shortly after Decatur whipped Athens 35-7 on Friday night, Red Raiders quarterback Ben Neill stood outside the locker room and backed that up.

"I actually don't think we should be ranked," Neill said. "I like it when we're not ranked."

After beating then-No. 1 J.O. Johnson last week, Decatur (3-1) received votes in the Alabama Sports Writers Association poll, but the Red Raiders could crack the rankings following their thrashing of the reigning 5A state champion Golden Eagles (2-2).

The win moved Decatur into a tie with second-ranked Russellville for the Class 5A, Region 8 lead. Both teams are 3-0 in the region. Russellville scored a 30-23 win over J.O. Johnson on Friday.

But once again, Adcock quelled the hype.

"That's a good feeling to have," he said, "but we got to realize 3-0 is just 3-0. There's still four more region games we have to win."

Neill accounted for 70 percent of Decatur's 501 yards of offense. He threw for 251 yards, ran for 108 and passed for two touchdowns as the Red Raiders kept their home winning streak against Athens alive.

The Golden Eagles haven't won in Ogle Stadium since 1998 when Philip Rivers quarterbacked Athens to a 28-21 victory.

"It's a great win," said Neill, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound sophomore. "They're always a big rivalry."

Normally highly regarded in the polls, Decatur fell from the rankings last year during a disappointing 4-6 season, but a trio of region wins like the ones the Red Raiders have reeled off could place them back into the state spotlight.

"I'm not worrying about rankings," Adcock said. "That don't mean a thing in the world to these kids and us. Rankings will take care of itself."

Last year Decatur blew a 10-point halftime lead at Athens, losing 34-17.

But the Red Raiders didn't let this one slip away, adding to a 21-0 halftime lead.

Neill found receiver Cory Dodson for a 32-yard touchdown strike on the first series of
the second half to put the dagger in.

Neill completed 19 of 29 attempts. Five of those went to Dodson.

The two hooked up to open the scoring in the first quarter. Decatur safety William Dennis intercepted Athens' Todd Pepper at the Eagle 30-yard line.

On third-and-three from the 7, Dodson hauled in Neill's pass for a 7-0 lead.

Decatur running back Chris Coffey capped an 11-play, 91-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter to put the Red Raiders ahead 14-0.

Decatur put together another impressive drive marching 91 yards midway through the second quarter. Coffey broke free down the sideline, breaking tackles along the way, for a 57-yard score.

Coffey had nine carries for 102 yards — an 11-yard average.

After an Athens failed punt late in the second quarter, Decatur had another scoring opportunity, but a drive to the Eagles' 12 stalled when Athens intercepted a pass in the end zone.

Down 14-0, Athens faced a fourth-and-four from the Decatur 12-yard line, but Pepper's pass fell incomplete. Athens never moved inside the Decatur 44-yard line until its final drive of the game.

Second-team running back Desmond Lavelle capped the scoring for Decatur with a 7-yard run midway through the fourth.

Athens avoided a shutout when Pepper hit receiver Chad Stinnett in stride for a 61-yard score late in the fourth quarter.

"These kids have overcome a lot to get to this point," Adcock said. "I'm proud of them."

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