Troy Athens senior quarterback Bobby Birney looks to pass during an Aug. 15 practice.

Troy Athens senior quarterback Bobby Birney looks to pass during an Aug. 15 practice.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Football preview: Troy Athens

2017 Record: 0-9

By: C & G Sports Staff | Troy Times | Published July 25, 2018

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Last season’s record: 0-9
League: Oakland Activities Association White Division
Returning starters: 10
First game: 7 p.m. Aug. 23 at Birmingham Seaholm

Offensive keys: 
Athens only averaged 12.4 points per contest last season, which was the program’s lowest output since 2008. There are six starters back from that unit.

Billy Keenist Jr. takes over the program after Josh Heppner stepped down from the post. He said the key to bouncing back from a winless season is to start from scratch.

“We’re really getting back to basics. In the summer we’ve focused on the fundamentals,” Keenist said. “We’re trying to keep it as simple as possible on both sides of the ball. We’re starting with those building blocks, and once we get pads on, we’re going to make sure the toughness and physicality is there.”

Keenist favors a power running game, saying senior tailback Austen Kenan and junior running back Carson Eads will get the majority of the carries.

“We’ve already implemented a lot of our offense in the summer, but it’s been very basic,” Keenist said. “We’re focusing on things like assignments, how to block, how to tackle and all that kind of stuff.”

Senior quarterback Bobby Birney will start under center.

“We have some good kids up front,” Keenist said. “We have a good senior quarterback as well that I trust and who really fits that pro style of offense. He’ll allow us to run that primarily.”

Defensive keys:
Last season saw the Red Hawks surrender 351 total points over the nine-game schedule. That was the highest mark in program history. There are four starters back from that unit.

Keenist retained defensive coordinator Matt Rawlik on his staff, saying he will be crucial to the success of the club.

“The kids know his system, and that’s a good thing,” Keenist said. “We didn’t want to shake up too many things. There’s not the learning curve like we have on offense.”

Coach’s outlook: 
“The goal is to get every single kid in the program to just play tough,” Keenist said. “I know a lot of coaches say that, but that’s really where we have to start. I bought a sign for the weight room that just says ‘tough’ on it. We want to be tough and physical and then after that, it’s just buying in.”


Schedule:
at Birmingham Seaholm (1-8) — 7 p.m. Aug. 23
This will mark the first time these two have clashed since 1999. Athens has taken both prior meetings.

at Farmington Hills Harrison (10-4) — 7 p.m. Aug. 31
The Red Hawks and Harrison haven’t met since 2006. This will be the last year of Harrison’s football program. Last year, Harrison earned a Division 3 runner-up finish, falling to Muskegon High in the title game. The Hawks lead the Red Hawks 4-1 in the all-time series.

vs. Rochester High (3-6) — 7 p.m. Sept. 7
Behind Troy High, Rochester is the most common opponent for Athens, with the all-time series being 18-17 in favor of the Red Hawks. The Falcons have only made the playoffs once since 2000.

at Lake Orion High (3-6) — 7 p.m. Sept. 14
Lake Orion has a stranglehold on this series, leading the matchup 24-2. Athens last won in 2015 but has been outscored by a 73-20 margin in the two years since.

vs. Oak Park High (9-3) — 7 p.m. Sept. 21
These two sides last played in 2015. Overall, the Red Hawks lead the series 4-2. The Knights are in pursuit of a seventh straight playoff appearance.

vs. Birmingham Groves (7-3) — 7 p.m. Sept. 28
Athens leads the series 18-6 with the last clash coming in 2006. The Falcons look to earn a sixth straight postseason bid.

vs. Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (3-6) — 7 p.m. Oct. 5
The pair last battled in 2015. A club that has only made the playoffs three times in program history, Stoney Creek leads the series 5-2.

at Troy High (6-4) — 7 p.m. Oct. 12
The only contest decided by less than two scores last season, Troy squeaked out a 20-19 victory over Athens in Week 9 via a touchdown in the final minute. The Colts lead the series 28-17.

at Oxford High (2-7) — 7 p.m. Oct. 19
From 1982 to 2014, Oxford had a single losing season. Since then, the Wildcats have gone a combined 9-18. Overall, Oxford leads the series 5-2, including a 17-7 victory in Week 2 last year.

Schedule courtesy of www.mhsaa.com, historical data from www.michigan-football.com and helmet provided by www.michiganhelmetproject.org

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