6-1 Springfield Catholic was the top-ranked team in its Class 3 district race. 5-2 Bolivar was in third place in its Class 4 district. But what shaped-up on paper as a pretty good match-up between two of the area's better teams turned into a rout by midway in the first quarter.
The Irish were their own worst enemy with two interceptions on their first three possessions. Bolivar's Devin Archer picked-off both passes, returning the first one to the Catholic 22 yard-line where it took the Liberators only two plays to score the game's first touchdown as Kolby Follis blasted the final two yards to give Bolivar a lead they'd never surrender at 10:22 of the first quarter.
After Bolivar moved 56 yards on its first offensive possession with Follis scoring again from a yard-out, Archer came up with his second interception, returning it for a touchdown and at 7:38 of the first quarter, the Liberators led 19-0 (with two missed extra points) and essentially had the game in hand.
It was 25-0 by the intermission as quarterback Rafe Peavey, a junior who's verbally committed to the University of Arkansas, engineered a 67 yard drive, going the final 16 yards himself, by cutting back-and-forth across the field and darting up the middle to paydirt on an impressive play that he said orginally called for a pass.
\"I looked to my left and saw their linebacker roll over to cover Follis," Peavey explained. "And that left a seam up the middle for me."
Bolivar added two more touchdowns within the first four minutes of the third quarter to lead 29-0. And the 53-0 final marked the Liberators second biggest margin of victory this season, surpassed only by their 68-0 win over Buffalo. And after losing two of their first three games, Bolivar has now won five-straight entering the final regular season game against Reeds Spring.
Those two losses, 19-8 to Branson and 26-0 to Harrisonville, came when both Peavey and Follis were battling injuries.
"It was tough," Peavey said of those losses. "We had to sit there and watch them play without us but now we're back and better than ever. We're peaking at the right time, that's for sure."
"We're starting to hit our stride," added Bolivar head coach Lance Roweton, who said his team was just now hitting "mid-season form",
One thing in Bolivar's favor this season is that perennial powerhouse Webb City won't be around to knock them out in the early rounds. In every season that Bolivar has qualified for the post-season since moving up from Class 3 to Class 4, Webb City has been the team to knock the Liberators out of the playoffs. That's every year since 2008. But in 2012, in the new playoff format, Bolivar has been shifted to a district with teams mostly north of the area, and they would not meet Webb City until the latter rounds.
"That's encouraging," Roweton said. "But when you start the season 1-2 and you're just scrapping to win a game, that's been my focus. The slow start is not a place I've been very much since we've started 6-0, 7-0, 9-0 in the past. So that kind of took my focus off the end (of the season). We've just been focused on getting better."
And based on their five-game winning streak, the Liberators have definitely accomplished that goal.