WELLSTON – The Wellston Golden Rockets scored on offense and on defense to take down Athens, 49-28, on homecoming at C.H. Jones Field on Friday night.

Wellston trailed 14-7 after the first quarter.

However, the Rockets roared back with three scores in the second to take a 27-14 lead going into halftime.

“We finally have all of our offensive linemen back, except one. We are more healthy now than we have been all season,” said Wellston head coach Mike Smith. “This is the first time this year we have played with the same offensive linemen two weeks in a row.”

It was a statement win for the Rockets, who haven’t beaten Bulldogs since 2008, their first season in the Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division. Last year, the two teams did not play due to Athens being in quarantine because of COVID-19.

Wellston quarterback Isaac Molihan threw for three scores, as Zach Wilbur caught two touchdown passes and Brenton Breech added one to lead the Rockets.

Molihan also added a pair of rushing touchdowns, and Gage Downard had one for the Rockets, who outrushed the visiting Bulldogs 130-111.

Wellston is 4-4 and 3-1 in the TVC-Ohio Division. Athens dropped to 2-6 and 2-2 in conference play.

Landon Wheatley threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Stevers to give Athens a 7-0 lead with 5:07 left in the first quarter.

Wellston, coming off a TVC-Ohio Division loss on the road at Nelsonville-York last week, responded with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Molihan to Wilbur to even the score at 7-7.

Wheatley then threw a 28-yard scoring pass to Derick Welsh with 3:58 left, and Athens retook the lead, 14-7.

“They Athens made a couple of great catches (on their two scoring drives),” said Smith. “Our kids were there, but they didn’t finish the play.”

The Rockets, however, regrouped and scored two touchdowns within the first four minutes in the second quarter.

Molihan led Wellston 39 yards in three plays, ultimately scoring on a 1-yard run after Athens turned the ball over on downs after a botched center exchange during a punting situation.

Wellston got it right back after forcing a fumble on the next series for Athens.

The Rockets drove 25 yards in five plays, and Molihan hit Breech with an eight-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion pass from Downard to Garrett Brown put Wellston up 21-14 with 8:08 left.

After both teams traded punts, the Rockets drove deep into Athens’ territory thanks to a 33-yard run by Downard on the first play from scrimmage. Then Molihan found Wilbur for a 20-yard touchdown pass on the next play to open a 27-14 lead going in at the half.

Athens received the ball to start the second half and drove 61 yards to the Wellston 17-yard line. Then a botched center exchange was recovered by Brendon Mullins.

Bodey Kemp opened with a 21-yard run and followed up with a negative gain of a minus-1 yard. Then on the next play, Molihan threw an interception, but the Rockets got the ball back three plays later when Breech intercepted Wheatley.

Wellston capitalized off the turnover, going 61 yards in nine plays to take a 35-14 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Molihan with 11:54 left in the fourth quarter. Molihan also scored on the two-point conversion attempt.

Then after recovering an onside kick, Molihan hooked up with Breech for a 64-yard gain, and Downard scored on a three-yard run on the next play to extend Wellston’s lead to 42-14.

However, Athens put together a quick scoring rally on back-to-back drives to cut it to a two-score game.

The Bulldogs struck quickly on its ensuing possession. Wheatley found Levi Neal for an 11-yard gain and followed with a 51-yard pass to Marcus Stevers. Luke Brandes capped the drive with a one-yard scoring run on the next play to make it 42-21 with 8:03 left.

On the Bulldogs’ next drive, Wheatley found Derrick Welsh for a 52-yard gain on the second play from scrimmage, and the junior quarterback finished it with a one-yard touchdown run with 4:48 left.

Aiden Graham ended the comeback attempt by the Bulldogs with a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:51 left.

“Aiden’s interception sealed the deal,” said Smith. “They (Athens) still had a little bit of life up until that point.”

Downard (45 yards), Kemp (45), Molihan (34), and Evan Brown (6) combined for Wellston’s 130 yards on the ground.

Molihan completed 11 of 19 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception for the Rockets, as they scored their most points in a single game this season.

Wilbur, Breech, and Graham led Wellston’s defense with an interception each. The Rockets forced five turnovers against the Bulldogs, while the special teams recovered two onside kicks.

Athens outgained the Rockets 414-346 for the game. Wheatley was 17 of 31 for 303 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Wellston will host Meigs in a TVC-Ohio Division matchup next Friday. The Marauders, who lost on Friday, 17-10, against Logan, will invade C.H. Jones Field, looking to snap their three-game losing streak.

Athens will remain on the road next week to face River Valley.