ROSEDALE — On a clear, cold evening here Friday night at Leland Young Stadium, the West Bolivar Eagles played host to the Richton High School Rebels in the first round of the 1A State Playoffs.
The game was a big one for the Eagles as it was their first playoff game since 2017. The Eagles were the No. 1 seed from Region 3, while Richton was the fourth seeded team from Region 4.
West Bolivar was hoping to advance and get to round two. The contest between the Eagles and Rebels was a grueling, physical affair. At the end of the night, the Rebels escaped Rosedale with a 28-20 win. The Rebels improved to 7-5 and will play Resurrection Catholic in the second round, while the Eagles concluded their year at 9-3.
“We came out and fought,” West Bolivar head football coach Terry Nolden said. “We made some mistakes on offense and defense. We didn’t capitalize on some of their mistakes. We came out to play, and I’m proud of these boys.”
Trailing 28-20 with less three minutes left in the game, the Eagles had a chance for a game-tying drive with the hopes of sending it into overtime but penalties killed their momentum as they ended up having to turn the ball over on downs. The Eagles led 12-7 at halftime.
Nolden said he didn’t like some of the calls, but understands that it’s the nature of the game.
“I don’t ever question referees, but every time we got somewhere we had a flag,” Nolden said. “The only thing I can tell my team is the only one that can beat us is us. They said we had a flag; I just go with it. One thing about referees is it’s a judgment call. Every time we got down the field and made a big play, it came back. It doesn’t seem right, but we accept it and move on. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. We just fought hard.”
Despite the loss, the Eagles ending the season with a 9-3 record and a playoff game at home is a vast improvement from last year when the team missed the playoffs and finished 1-10.
“The attitudes of the guys have changed,” Nolden said. “The negative stuff that went on last year, we didn’t have this year. I’m proud of the guys. It (the loss) hurt. It hurt real bad, but life goes on. We’re trying to fight and get the team back ready. This is just the beginning, and we’re thankful for everything that we did and accomplished this year. We can’t do anything but get better.”
Senior athlete James Green ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass from Trey Davis and rushed for a two-point conversion, and senior Javarione Murphy marched on a touchdown run to lead the Eagles. Green finished the year with 32 total touchdowns.
On defense for West Bolivar, Michael Lambert and Josh Towers each had a fumble recovery.