Bolivar football’s 2020 campaign was thrilling down to the last second.
The Liberators ended their season Friday, Nov. 6, following a 27-23 home loss to Warrensburg in the Class 4 District 6 semifinal.
Throughout the contest, the Liberators struggled to contain Warrensburg’s fast-moving passing game.
Bolivar trailed 14-13 at halftime after a back-and-forth first half.
The theatrics continued in the third and fourth quarters, with Bolivar’s Anson Pulsipher claiming his first of two interceptions just minutes in.
Though Pulsipher’s pick was returned for a touchdown, the play was called back due to a penalty, and the Liberators scored a field goal to retake a 16-14 lead.
With the clock ticking, Warrensburg found the end zone on a long pass to retake the lead, and Bolivar answered, capitalizing on a bad snap during a Warrensburg punt to recover the ball in range of the end zone.
Quarterback Bo Banner rushed past the goal line to give his team the lead.
The Liberators’ 23-20 lead set up a tense final two minutes, exacerbated further by a pass interference call Bolivar’s sideline strongly disputed.
Without the call, the play would have resulted in an interception, and likely sent Bolivar to the district title game.
Instead, Warrensburg got another chance and made good on the opportunity. Another touchdown gave the Tigers a 27-20 lead.
Despite the nature of the loss, Liberator coach Glen Johnson said he was proud of his team and how it forged a new path in a new conference, despite a global pandemic.
“We are heartbroken the way it ended but grateful we got to play our season,” Johnson said. “There was so much uncertainty leading into this season and getting to play every Friday gave our community some normalcy during the pandemic.”
Warrensburg will challenge Jefferson City Helias for the district title Friday, Nov. 13.
Bolivar’s first season in the Ozark Conference saw it finish 7-3 as the league’s smallest school, and, as coach Glen Johnson pointed out in August — the only one without its own stadium.
Those seven wins include victories over multiple strong teams, including conference champion West Plains, which entered that game the favorite.
The Zizzers, along with Liberator regular season opponents Lebanon and Glendale, will challenge for their respective district titles this week.
West Plains faces Carl Junction, while Lebanon will play Glendale.
Bolivar graduates 16 seniors, and Johnson said their presence on the team has left a legacy.
“The class of 2021 will be missed and will not be soon forgotten,” he said. “They continued the winning tradition of Liberator football.”
The group recorded 22 wins in their high school careers, Johnson calculated.
“They will always be winners,” he said. “More importantly, they will be remembered for their leadership and character. They did it right on and off the field. They raised the bar of what it means to be a Liberator, and we will be forever grateful to these young men for the culture they leave behind.”