Bolton’s football team did something on Friday that it hasn’t done all season: Play with a lead.
Rallying from a six-point deficit, the Wildcats scored three straight touchdowns to take a 16-point lead over Wooddale and then hung on for a 28-26 victory in a Region 8-5A Homecoming rain game at Bolton.
“The kids bounced back,” said Bolton coach Patrick Knight, after watching his team fall behind on the first play of the game. “We didn’t want to show panic. I started to get a little anxious at the end. Our kids haven’t played in front this year. This was the first time we got a chance. It ended up working out.”
It worked out when Bolton defender Keontae Barr knocked down the fourth-and-19 pass of Wooddale quarterback Jerry Craine on the Bolton 12-yard line with 1:12 left.
“The defense held them at the end and made the big play,” said Knight.
Bolton running back Zac Rhodes made big plays. Rushing for season highs of 197 yards and three touchdowns, Rhodes added to his resume. A senior, Rhodes entered the game with five 100-plus rushing games and 772 yards total.
“I walked up to him after the game and told him that the biggest asset he’s got is his great heart and determination,” said Knight. “He’s done that all year.”
In his first season as Wooddale head coach Darren Stevens said that Rhodes “looked good on film. I thought we would be able to handle him, apparently we couldn’t. He looked great.”
Rhodes wasn’t the only one. Bolton freshman quarterback Ryan Bevel, who was starting his third game, completed 10 of 24 passes for 189 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Justin Wallace, and kicked two extra points.
He led the Wildcats on scoring drives of 39, 53, 62 and 9 yards, the last after a fumble recovery.
Averaging 18.9 yards per pass, Bevel did not throw an interception. Wallace led Bolton receivers with five catches for 137 yards.
“He’s getting better each week. We ask him to do an awful lot to be a freshman. I am tickled to death with his progression,” said Knight, who turned to Bevel after junior quarterback Adarius Barr sustained a concussion. “He gives us the best chance right now. We are going to have him for four years.”
Known for its passing-game pizzazz, Wooddale (1-6, 1-3 in region) has relied on Craine and wide receivers Andre Golden and Jaylon Burrus. Craine is among Shelby-Metro’s leading passers, entering the game with 16 touchdown passes and 2,100 yards.
Against Bolton, Craine, a junior, completed 12 of 29 passes for 373 yards and threw three touchdowns including two to Golden. Craine’s aim included touchdown strikes of 61 yards, 94 yards and 46 yards.
Calling Craine “one of the top quarterbacks in the nation,” Stevens said that Craine has sparked interest from Arkansas State and UCLA. Golden is on pace to break records in receiving yards said Stevens. Golden, a junior with 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash, has caught seven touchdown passes this season. Golden had five receptions for 199 yards.
The Wildcats (2-5, 2-2) had 440 yards total offense (189 passing, 241 rushing) while Wooddale had 407 (373 passing, 34 rushing). Mario Blanch ran for 23 yards on six carries for Bolton. Bevel rushed for 21 yards on six carries.
It was Bolton’s offensive line that allowed Rhodes to get the rushing yardage and scoring he said. “Our linemen were blocking and holes were opening up. We have got a lot of talent. We have come a long way.”
A positive attitude has aided Bevel. After Barr was injured and Bevel got the start, coaches told him he “could do this,” said Bevel.
My family, everybody was telling me that I could take over and help this team win games,” he noted. “I was most concerned about how I was going to do and how I was going to develop this team to get a winning record.”
The Bolton defense recovered a Craine fumble at the Wildcats’ 5-yard line. That stopped a potential second Wooddale touchdown. The third quarter fumble recovery on the Wooddale 9 that led to a touchdown gave the Wildcats a 27-12 lead with 5:53 left.
Wooddale started fast. With only 11 seconds into the game, Craine threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Burrus for a 6-0 lead.
“I thought we were going to beat them 50-0,” said Stevens, an offensive tackle who played at Memphis from 2004-08.
The Wildcats answered after Rodney Alexander recovered a fumble at the Wooddale 39 and Bevel threw a 29-yard pass to Wallace to get them to the 10-yard line. Rhodes ran 10 yards for a touchdown and the game was tied at 6 with 9:30 left in the first.
Wooddale then tried to break the tie. Craine threw a 64-yard pass to Golden that went to the Bolton 5 but Craine fumbled. Bolton linebacker Frank Madden was credited with the fumble recovery.
The Wildcats moved to the 50-yard line when Bevel threw a 33-yard pass to Wallace. Alexander later got a first down at the Wooddale 32-yard line and Rhodes ran for another one at the Wooddale 10. Rhodes scored a touchdown but a Wildcats’ penalty nullified the score.
On fourth and six, Bevel threw an incomplete pass. The Cardinals scored when Craine hit Golden with a 94-yard touchdown pass for a 12-6 lead with 2:32 left in the first.
The Wildcats would take a lead they would never lose. A 24-yard pass from Bevel to Tyler King got the Wildcats to the 24-yard line and from the 10-yard line, Bevel threw a touchdown pass to Wallace for a 12-12 tie. Bevel kicked the PAT for a 13-12 lead with 8:57 left in the second quarter.
The Wildcats went up 21-12 at the half when Rhodes, who had a 25-yard run in the drive, scored from 21 yards out and then ran the two-point conversion with 5:18 left in the second quarter. Barr later stopped a Wooddale drive at the Bolton 30-yard with an interception.
“When they are down, they seem to play better,” said Stevens, whose team had two touchdowns in the second half. “We made plays.”
A 1-yard touchdown run by Rhodes gave the Wildcats a 27-12 lead with 5:53 left in the third quarter. Bevel, who also punts, kicked the extra point for a 28-12 lead.
A 52-yard touchdown pass from Craine to Myrone Kimber got the Cardinals to within 28-18 at the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter Craine threw a 51-yard pass to Kimber that got the Cardinals to the Bolton 29. Later Burrus ran 4-yards for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 28-24. Kimber ran the two-point conversion and it was 28-26.
“I think we should have scored a lot more and made some plays on defense and made some stops. You know you can score in a hurry but every time we got a good drive, we got a penalty. It’s hard to call plays on first and 20.”
The difference in the game Stevens told his team afterwards were two-point conversions. “I think we get complacent scoring touchdowns and not thinking about scoring the two.”
Craine, whose team faces Brighton this Friday at Halle Stadium, said that early scores have provided momentum.
“What clicked for us is that we scored early and starting off fast like our coaches expect us to,” he said. “What kept us from winning was the careless error I made when I fumbled the snap at the 5-yard line.”
Bevel said that “nobody giving up” was key to the Bolton’s win. “You don’t just bring your head down. You think of a positive and just come back and score.”
Freshman Isiah Miller and junior Kenneth Wooten are defensive leaders for the Cardinals, who are a young team said Stevens.
“We have a hard time stopping the run. I have four sophomores playing. They are young and missed tackles and made mistakes.”
Bolton junior defensive back Kelvin Brown “is becoming a darn good football player,” said Knight. “He has played well. On the defensive side of the ball, he is a standout.”
Albert Smith had a pass break-up in the second quarter.
Rhodes also applauded his team’s defense. “We got fumbles and we were pushing down the field. We kept our heads up when they scored on the first play of the game. We don’t quit.”
Said Knight, whose team plays at Kirby this Friday, “Our ability to regroup after they were able to make the big play showed we didn’t dejected. We didn’t lose focus and heart.”
Written by Bill Sorrell, special to the Express.