In Bolivar, there is nothing unlucky about the No. 13.
The Bolivar football team won its 13th consecutive Central Ozark Conference Small Division championship Friday by beating previously undefeated Reeds Spring 50-27 at Plaster Stadium on the SBU campus. Bolivar scored 30 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for a come-from-behind win.
Senior running back Aaron Samek rushed for 141 yards and four touchdowns on 17 attempts. Three of Samek’s touchdowns came during the Liberators’ fourth quarter avalanche of points.
Samek ran with the added pressure of trying not to become the only one of his brothers not to win a conference title as a senior.
“My brothers went through and they both won, so if we wouldn’t have won, I probably would have been disappointed,” Samek said.
Bolivar (8-1) trailed Reeds Spring with less than six minutes to play in the fourth quarter when Samek scored a go-ahead touchdown on a winding 32 yard run. On Reeds Spring’s ensuing offensive play, defensive tackle Joey Clark forced Wolves quarterback Nick Haddock to fumble, allowing Camden Burns to score a 7-yard scoop and score touchdown.
Bolivar coach Lance Roweton sighed with relief as Burns celebrated.
“That was the first time in the game that I felt comfortable that we were going to win,” Roweton said.
Roweton frequently sent Samek running on sweeps to the left over the course of the 30-point scoring run.
“We usually run (the sweep) a lot during the season,” Samek said. “The linemen did a great job blocking and there is usually a hole or a cutback or something.”
Reeds Spring coach Lance Gosch tried to pick his team up after its first loss of the season. The Wolves start the Class 3 district playoffs Oct. 23, likely at home against East Newton.
“This one hurts and it’s going to hurt. They worked this hard to get here,” Gosch said. “We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got a great opportunity in the next coming week, so that’s going to be our focus from here on out.”
Bolivar quarterback Connor Sechler went 15-of-19 passing for 256 yards. His most important was a 34-yard fourth quarter heave to tight end Brandon Emmert that set up Samek’s 32-yard touchdown.
Senior Johnny Scott finished the game with seven receptions for 131 yards for the Liberators.
Haddock finished with 21 carries for 56 rushing yards and three Reeds Spring touchdowns.
Class 4 No. 10 Bolivar finds itself in a nightmarish district with No. 1 Webb City, No. 2 Carl Junction and No. 8 West Plains. The Liberators will likely have the fourth seed in their district and home field advantage for the first playoff game Oct. 23.
Beating Reeds Spring showed the Liberators’ ability to gain momentum in an instant.
“We’ve got a lot of play makers and our kids came up big and did a great job tonight. Once we took the lead, I thought we settled down and I thought things kind of came apart for (Reeds Spring) late,” Roweton said.
Gosch believes the Wolves possess the resiliency to rebound from the loss.
“We missed some tackles,” Gosch said. “I’m proud of the way the kids played, they played hard. For three and a half quarters we were right there, had an opportunity, made some mistakes and it got away from us.”