Friday night, the Eagles faced a difficult challenge in the third round of the 2A State Playoffs with the Bruce High School Trojans standing in their way. Plenty of West Bolivar fans made the approximate 100-mile trip down to Bruce to cheer on the Eagles.
West Bolivar’s chance of a state title repeat flew out the door as the Trojans squeaked by with a 14-12 win to eliminate the Eagles from the playoffs here at Trojan Field. Bruce, now 11-3, will face Eupora for the 2A North Half Title this Friday, while West Bolivar ended its season at 11-3.
Bruce’s offense controlled the football by running 58 plays to West Bolivar’s 35 plays, which enabled the Trojans to have the ball for more than two-thirds of the game on offense. Out of those 58 plays, Bruce, known for its passing game, ran the ball 37 times for a total of 173 yards on the ground. The Trojans finished up with 286 yards of total offense, while the Eagles had 147 yards of offense.
Down 14-6 in the fourth quarter, the Eagles tried to take the lead as Kailo Moore, playing under center at quarterback, took the snap and ran it to the house 61 yards for a touchdown. Moore tried to score the 2-point conversion but was stopped short as Bruce still led 14-12 with 9:02 left in the game.
The Eagles’ defense stepped up immediately after Bruce got the football as Trojan running back Zay Armstrong fumbled the football with West Bolivar’s William Lloyd recovering it to give the Eagles possession at the Trojans’ 32-yard line. West Bolivar was able to get inside the 10-yard line, but Bruce’s defense held firm and forced the Eagles to go for a 29-yard field goal attempt. The kick from Ladarius Tucker fell a measly couple of feet short, and the Eagles still trailed 14-12 with 5:36 left to play.
The Eagles were able to get the ball back one more time, but Armstrong picked off the pass from Kylan Johnson with 1:18 left in the game to seal up the win for Bruce.
“We still held them to 14 points, but it’s unfortunate that would couldn’t score,” West Bolivar head football coach Henry Johnson said. “We just ran out of gas. We went to a two-safety look, and they just ran the football on us. We still had a chance to win it with a field goal.”
“We were right where we wanted to be, but I admire them (Bruce),” Johnson added.
In the first quarter, the Eagles started the game on offense, but were quickly forced to punt. The Trojans got the ball in good field position as they started the drive at the Eagles’ 41-yard line. Bruce ended up marching on a 6-play drive that was anchored by four solid runs from Zay Armstrong and a 17-yard run from quarterback Davis Brown. With 7:48 left in the first, Armstrong marched into the end zone from six yards out to give the Trojans their first touchdown of the night. The PAT kick from Tyler Donovan was good, and Bruce led 7-0.
The Trojans controlled the clock through out the first half, but the Eagles’ defense played tough and kept the Trojans in check. Tucker recovered a fumble in the first half, while the rest of the Eagles did a good job at holding Bruce to seven points, despite the Trojans starting a possession in Eagles’ territory three different times in the half.
As the second quarter was winding down, the Trojans went on another good run, which put them at the Eagle 4-yard line. Bruce tried to score another touchdown, but West Bolivar’s defense came through big time as Brown’s short pass was intercepted by Kylan. Kylan ended up running the ball 98 yards to the end zone for the touchdown with 13 seconds left in the half.
West Bolivar ended up being called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play for excessive celebration, which forced the Eagles to start their point-after attempt at the 18-yard line instead of the 3-yard line. The extra distance forced West Bolivar to go for a 2-point conversion instead of an extra point kick. The conversion pass from Moore to Dekendrick Hall was incomplete, and Bruce held a slim 7-6 lead going into the lockerroom at halftime.
The Trojans started the second half on offense with a solid 10-play drive. The drive concluded when Armstrong, who finished the game with 119 yards on 23 carries, scored his second touchdown of the night on an 8-yard run with 6:20 left in the third quarter. Donovan’s PAT kick was good, and the Trojans led 14-6.
The Eagles also had some drives on offense where a couple of dropped passes hindered their scoring chances. West Bolivar went 0-for-9 throwing the football.
Moore led the Eagles’ offense by running for 111 yards with a touchdown on 15 carries. Out of those 111 yards, 94 of them came in the second half.
On defense, Tucker and Lloyd each recovered fumbles, while Kylan had the key interception return for a touchdown. Kebeon Clinton also recorded a clutch sack for the Eagles in the second half.
On offense for Bruce, Brown completed 14-of-21 passes for 113 yards with Shaq Bush catching seven of those passes for 71 yards to lead the Trojans.