Given it is homecoming weekend, it’d be no surprise if the students running the spotlights at the postgame dance swung them around once Bolivar High School’s Lane Loomer strolled in.
After all, the locals may well have found an appropriate nickname for the junior running back – Freight Train Lane – after he threatened a 300-yard rushing performance Friday night.
But all the accolades should instead go elsewhere, Loomer emphasized, after the Bolivar Liberators blew the doors open in the second half behind their stout offensive line and beat the Springfield Catholic Fighting Irish 35-7 at Plaster Stadium on the Southwest Baptist campus.
“All the yards I got wouldn’t have happened without them opening holes. But it’s not just them,” said Loomer, who churned for 275 yards on a whopping 33 carries, including a pair of game-turning, third-quarter touchdown runs of 61 and 58 yards. “Bailey (Bilyeu) and the other receivers held their blocks, and without them I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.”
Quarterback Connor Sechler and tight end Brandon Emmert also connected for three touchdowns for Bolivar, which led only 7-0 at halftime in a penalty-plaque first half.
Had the Liberators not been flagged for five holding penalties, Loomer might have zoomed past a rare and special, 300-yard rushing effort. Fortunately for Bolivar, the Liberators cleaned up their act after halftime, and opened the second half with authority.
On the first play from scrimmage, Loomer took it to the house on his 61-yard run. On the next Bolivar series, on his fifth carry, Loomer broke off his 58-yarder.
Credit the offensive line of Gavin Hood, A.J. Lynn, Chris Harris, Lane Mashburn, Wesley Severns and Zach Howard.
“Basically, we told them that we had some adversity with the holding calls and that it’s always questionable with holding,” Bolivar coach Glen Johnson said. “I just told them, ‘Be more physical them and don’t leave it to the refs. Be physical.’”
Looking back at the first half, two important plays had given Bolivar some elbow room. The first, of course, was the first touchdown midway through the first quarter, a Sechler-to-Emmert, 15-yard connection.
The other key play was one that might be celebrated during film study. You see, Bilyeu – the team’s punter – avoided what might have been a disastrous scenario for the Liberators. He chased down a snap that went over his head and almost into the red zone, grabbed it, half-circled rugby-style and booted a punt from about the Bolivar 25 to the Irish 22.
That was with 3:01 left before halftime, and Bolivar’s defense forced a punt less than two minutes later.
“When it went over my head, I thought, ‘I’m going to grab it and see if I can either get yards or kick it as far as I can,’” said Bilyeu, who added that he and the long snapper didn’t get time for pre-game snaps. “And when I saw I had time to kick it, I just gave it my all. Heck, I didn’t know how far it went. … When I looked up and it got to the 20, I was surprised myself.”
Meanwhile, Sechler and Emmert became best buddies on pass plays. Sechler finished with 150 yards passing, connecting on 12 of 19 throws, with one interception. The back-shoulder fade routes to the back corner of the end zone worked beautifully for Bolivar, which saw the two hook up twice in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve done that so many times this year,” Sechler said. “It’s pretty easy when he is 6-foot-6.”
But all eyes were on Loomer, er, Freight Train Loomer.
“Good grief. He’s a stud,” Sechler said. “He really helped us out. He opens up a lot of passing windows for me, and you can’t say enough about our hogs. They busted their butts tonight.”