SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Last year, Bolivar Football went 10 and still got handed a three-seed in the district all because of it’s weaker independent schedule.
“We end up having to go to West Plains being undefeated,” Bolivar Head Coach Glen Johnson said. “There was no shot at us hosting a game, you know, being able to host a championship game or a second round.”
This year, however, problem solved – as Bolivar replaced Central in the Ozark Conference – inheriting some much steeper competition.
“It’s awesome because everyone would say we ain’t playing nobody,” Bolivar Sr. Running Back and Outside Linebacker Darrin Fugitte said. “We ain’t playing anybody that’s good. We aren’t playing anybody that knows how to play football. So being in the Ozark Conference gives us that. They know that these people are good. Then whenever we beat them, they’re like, ‘Oh, Bolivar is actually pretty good.'”
The biggest challenge hasn’t been their opponents, though.
Rather it’s been COVID-19, which forced Bolivar 20 players into quarantine.
“By Monday it was three or four more,” Johnson said. “By Wednesday it was three or four more. Thursday on the way there it was four more. Friday we found out three or four more.
“Whenever we got the news that like three of our quarterbacks were out, we were like, ‘Oh man, this is going to be a fun game (laughs),'” Fugitte said.
But even without a single quarterback, the Liberators found a way to pull out wins against Parkview and Lebanon.
“It was definitely challenging,” Bolivar Sr. Middle Linebacker Andrew Bunn said. “I was one of the people that had to quarantine. It was definitely hard being away from the team having to watch the game Friday not being able to be with them. But we’ve got a great team. They were able just to play with the cards they were dealt and just put their heads down and get business done.”
“Now, just having people be able to come in, people that might not always play, come in and be able to step up and play as good as they did is just really awesome,” Fugitte said.
Now, most of the team is back and just in time for a matchup with Glendale’s unique spread offense.
“Having our guys back all week will help,” Johnson said. “Even the guys we got back for the Lebanon game didn’t get to practice until Thursday. We’ve played a lot more run heavy teams over the years than we have this style for sure.”