Countdown to Kickoff: Athens Bluejays - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Countdown to Kickoff: Athens Bluejays

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This edition of our Countdown to Kickoff series features the Newsline 9 Power 9's fifth ranked team, the Athens Bluejays.

The Bluejays lost Cloverwood Coach of the Year Ryan Bargender, but long time assistant coach Mike Thurs has taken over the helm.

Out of all the area playoff teams from last fall, Athens seems to have the most production returning this season. The Bluejays have five first-team all-conference players coming back, with Tony Thurs and Shane Coker earning 2013 first-team selections on both sides of the ball.

Cloverwood honorable mention quarterback Collin Ellenbecker will be starting for the second season under center. Defensively, Ellenbecker was also a first-team selection at cornerback last fall.

First-team all-conference running back Lane Tessmer returns in the backfield and is ready for a bulk of this season's carries.

Although Athens will continue to run the ball at a high clip, coach Mike Thurs says that Ellenbecker is prepared to throw the ball more than he did in 2013.

The Bluejays lost in the Level 2 playoffs last October but with all the star power returning for senior seasons, Athens is in serious contention for the program's first state title.

"We've been to that position in the playoffs before," said Tessmer. "The last two years we've lost in Level 2 and now we just want to go farther. We want to do something that no team (here) has done before so that's motivation for us."

"With the amount of kids we have back, I believe we have 19 returning starters between the two sides of the ball," said Coach Thurs. "We have big goals. Our ultimate goal is to be a state champion."

Athens opens the 2014 season at home on Friday against Cloverwood foe Loyal.

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