BARNESVILLE - John Glenn's Blake Atkins started his senior season in grand style.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound standout rushed for 207 yards and scored four touchdowns in leading the Muskies to an impressive 41-6 victory over homestanding Barnesville Friday night in the 54th meeting between the two schools.
"I'm very happy with our effort," John Glenn head coach John Kelley said. "And 29 (Atkins) was exceptional. He's a talented kid and showed tonight what he is capable of.
BARNESVILLE’S Dylan Burkhart turns the corner during Friday’s game against John?Glenn at Shamrock Stadium. The Shamrocks fell to the Lil Muskies, 41-6.
"There is always uncertainty surrounding your season opener," Kelley added. "There is a long tradition of these two schools starting the season against each other. It's pretty special, when you think of the movement of schools into conferences."
The Muskies will face Cambridge Friday night in the first meeting between the two schools.
Atkins got things rolling on the Muskies' second play from scrimmage, taking a swing pass from classmate Zyler Flowers to the house from 55 yards out. Ross Mathews connected on the point after, handing the Muskies a 7-0 lead with just four minutes gone in the game.
John Glenn's next possession resulted in an 83-yard drive with Atkins plunging in from four yards out. Mathews was true again on the placement making it 14-0.
Barnesville's defense stiffened with consecutive stops on JG drives starting inside its own 40-yard line.
Following the second stop, the Shamrocks put together a nice 64-yard drive with sophomore Dylan Burkhart covering the final 17 yards on a nice run. A bad snap on the extra point left the 'Rocks facing a 14-6 deficit with just 2:39 left in the first half.
Just when Barnesville seemed to have the momentum, Atkins stepped up and took it right back.
The senior appeared to be boxed in deep in JG territory but somehow eluded several Barnesville defenders and broke free for a 51-yard scamper to the hosts 25-yard line.
Three plays later, Atkins scooped up a botched handoff, made two guys miss and found paydirt from 24 yards out. The kick was blocked, but JG held a 20-6 lead with :59 showing.
"It could've easily been 14-6 at halftime, but we just didn't tackle," Barnesville head coach Matt Johnson explained. "Missed tackles was a repeating occurrence tonight.
"John Glenn was more physical than us," he added. "I think we kind of accepted what was going on and that reflects poorly on me. We will address that starting tomorrow."
Kelley's thoughts on the play were quite simple "that's the reason we tossed it to him (Atkins)."
John Glenn came out of the locker room and quickly went back to work.
Atkins capped a 63-yard drive with a 47-yard jaunt. That coupled with Mathews' PAT extended the lead to 27-6.
Burkhart returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the JG 12-yard line. However, Atkins stepped in front of a pass to thwart a Shamrock scoring chance.
Atkins then broke off a 60-yard run to set up junior Tanner Morton's 12-yard touchdown run. Mathews booted the PAT extending the lead to 34-6.
Morton also tacked on a 4-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter to close the scoring.
"We have work to do," Johnson said. "We were in the same position last season. We took it on the chin to start the season, but the kids bounced back. We have to do the same thing now."
Barnesville will take to the road at Meadowbrook Friday night. The Colts were tough-luck, 22-20, losers to Shadyside last night.
One of the few trouble spots for John Glenn was the fact that the Muskies put the ball on the grass eight times, although they retained possession each time.
"We have to work on our fundamentals," Kelley admitted. "We understand it was the first game, but it's not like we haven't been practicing for six weeks. We are not pleased with the fumbles but we will address that."