The Bruce Trojan defense played arguably its best in the biggest game of the year as the Trojans defeated defending state champion West Bolivar 14-12 Friday night to advance to the Class 2A North Half Championship at Eupora next Friday.
"Tonight we shut a really good offense down, a really good running back down," Bruce Coach James Ray said. "The defense played outstanding."
The Trojan defense stopped West Bolivar on their final two drives, both deep in Trojan territory. The first ended with a missed 29-yard field goal attempt after the Bruce defense pushed the Eagles backwards after they had reached the 10-yard line.
Then with the game on the line in the closing minute, Zay Armstrong pulled in a diving interception at the Bruce 20 yard line to seal the victory.
"When I saw the ball in the air I just went after it," Armstrong said. "I knew I had to get that football in my hands no matter what it took."
The Trojans dominated the first two quarters, but only held a 7-6 lead at the half. Bruce outgained West Bolivar 168-30 yards in the first half. The Eagles' score came on a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown by Kylan Johnson. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for celebrating pushed them back to the 18-yard line for the conversion which failed to keep Bruce in front 7-6.
The Trojans' first half touchdown came on a 6-yard run by Zay Armstrong to cap a 42-yard scoring drive on their opening possession.
Bruce marched down the field to open the second half, scoring on an 8-yard touchdown run by Zay Armstrong. He finished with a game high 114 yards. The big play on the drive was a third and long catch by Rashad Turner as he tip-toed the sideline. He injured a foot on the play and didn't return to the game.
West Bolivar answered with a 61-yard touchdown run by Moore when he took a snap in the Wildcat formation and raced around the right edge and down the sideline. Moore was stuffed on the 2-point conversion to keep Bruce in front 14-12 with 9:02 to play.
Th Bruce defense took over from there. Moore finished with 112 yards rushing in the game. The rest of the West Bolivar team only accounted for 35.
Jonathan Bobo and Deshawn Tillman were among the top tacklers for the Trojans.
"We played with our heart," Bobo said. "We wanted it the most."
"They've beat us before running the ball, this time we weren't going to let that happen," Tillman said. "The defense had to step up and we stepped up today."
"This is the best feeling in the whole wide world," said Donta Armstrong, who had several big catches on third down to move the chains. "We've been talking about this since day one. Coach told us to just execute the game plan and we came through. Unbelievable job tonight by everybody."
Photos by Joel McNeece