It was a strong showing in the second half that helped lead the Red Devils (8-1, 6-1 Region 5-AA) it a tight ball game all the way through.
“It was. It came down to the last play. I can’t say enough about our kids. We didn’t play well in the first half. Bremen had some things to do with it and we had some things to do with it. We challenged our kids at halftime and they came out hard in the second half. We blocked better, tackled better, ran better. We did everything a lot better in the second half than we did in the first half,” Bowdon coach Dwight Hochstetler said.
It certainly wasn’t a lack of effort from the Blue Devils, who were in the game until the final 11.8 seconds.
“I’m proud of our kids. They left it all on the field. I’m so proud of their effort and the way they played. They came back, just fell short," Bremen coach Ricky Tolleson said. “They’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. I’m proud of them. They left it all on the field. That was just a classic Bremen-Bowdon football game.”
The game started well enough for Bremen (4-5, 3-4), as the Blue Devils drove 80 yards in eight plays, capped off by a 55-yard touchdown pass from Trent McClure to Sean Stassie, and with Ethan Haynes extra point, the boys in blue were up 7-0.
After the Red Devils turned the ball over on downs on their first drive, Chris Keith came up with an interception and then finished off the short drive with a seven-yard run of his own. Bremen’s Josh Johnson blocked the extra point to keep the Blue Devils up, 7-6.
Bremen would add another score early in the second quarter when McClure used his legs to go eight yards for the touchdown. A pair of punts and an incomplete pass as time expired put the Blue Devils up 14-6 at halftime.
Then the Red Devils turned it up a gear in the second half.
The first drive took Bowdon just over three minutes to march 60 yards, as Darnell Holland went 19 yards for the score. Marcus Thurman then found Logan Freeman with a pass for the two-point play to tie the game at 14-all.
Following a Blue Devil punt, the two teams traded scores over the next three possessions.
First, it was Holland scoring from 27 yards out, followed by a 10-yard run from Voltaire Driver before Pearce Kirk punched the ball in from one-yard out for the game-winning score.
The Blue Devils made things interesting in the last two minutes, however.
Following a downed punt that put the ball at the nine-yard line, Johnson took the pitch from McClure and threw a 43-yard pass to Stassie to start the drive. Then, after a short McClure run and an incomplete pass, Johnson ran 24 yards on a busted play, but it came back 10 yards on a block in the back call. From there, Stassie almost found Johnson on a pass, and on the final play of the drive, McClure just barely overthrew Johnson in the corner of the end zone.
Bowdon had to take just one knee to end the game and seal the victory.
The Blue Devils’ offense never really got going in the second half. Aside from a 55-yard run from McClure setting up the lone second-half touchdown, the Bowdon defense held the Bremen offense down.
“We tackled a little better in the first half. We didn’t tackle very well in the second half and we didn’t block as well. They got to working on us in one area and they did a good job of it. We just couldn’t get there. Our backers couldn’t get there. They executed what they do,” Tolleson said. “They put up three scores to our one [in the second half].”
A lot of the success the Bowdon offense had in the second half had to do with Holland. After just four yards rushing in the first half, the sophomore rushed for 116 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the final two quarters for 120 yards on 13 carries for the night.
“We were trying to take what they were giving us. Holland didn’t really have a great first half. I told him that at halftime. I challenged him, and he came through with flying colors. He’s just a sophomore. Tiny, but he’s going to be a player for us down the road. I can’t say enough about Marcus. All our running backs contributed. Our line did a great job, they blocked so much better the second half,” Hochstetler said.
Keith led the Red Devil rushing attack with 132 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown, while Thurman just missed the 100-yard mark with 95 yards to go along with his 22 yards passing.
The Blue Devils will wrap their season up on the road next week at Temple, while Bowdon will play for a shot at the region title at home against Heard County in two weeks following an open week.
As for the the ice-bucket celebration, the Bowdon coach had just one thing to say about it — “Cold.”