The Red Boiling Springs Bulldogs traveled to Jo Byrns in Cedar Hill, Tennessee, on Thursday, October 26 and earned their way into the playoffs with an intense 27-24 win over the hosting Red Devils.
This game was a Region 4- 1A battle with third place standing on the line and the loser having to go and face the number one ranked team in the state, South Pittsburgh in round one of the playoffs next week.
The Red Boiling Springs football team is led by their 6 ft. 4 in., 217 lbs. quarterback Aubrey Link, who also kicks, and punts, being skilled in many facets of the game, and has been instrumental in achieving a great season for the 2023 Bulldogs, standing at four and five, and still trying to build momentum into post-season play.
Head Coach Sean Link has done a fantastic job with this year’s Bulldog football program, going into the game 0-2 in Region 4/1A play, with the two defeats being against Gordonsville and Clay County. The young Bulldog football program have roared to life this season, with three seniors on the roster, and Aubrey Link being one of them.
Red Boiling Springs had not beaten Joe Burns in the 21st century, and with it being senior night for the Red Devils, the Bulldogs were matched up for a challenging contest, however, with the host now standing at 1-8 and 0-2 in the region and a fi rst-time head coach steering the helm combined with the Red Devils losing seven games in a row, the Bulldogs had to remain steadfast to reach the victory.
The Red Devils Amari Cotton answered with a 67 yard touchdown rush, followed by a successful two-point conversion, claiming the lead 8-6 with 1:20 left in the first quarter. A 26-yard touchdown pass
from Jo Byrns inched the lead to 16-6 with 7:03 left in the first half. Red Boiling Springs recovered a fumble in the red zone with 1:07 left in the first half, yet was unable to move the score before the halftime break.
At 9:49 in the third quarter, Bulldog quarterback Aubrey Link sailed a touchdown pass to #4 Joseph Birdwell and the extra-point was good, now only trailing by three points.
At 6:40 in the third quarter, Red Boiling Springs recovered the second fumble of the game, giving the Dawgs the chance to reclaim the lead. A catch by Tyler Lancaster ended with a 15-yard gain for Red Boiling Springs. The next pass to Joseph Birdwell ended in a touchdown, but was called back for a block in the back. Joseph Birdwell on the next reception for the 1st down in the red zone for 1 & 10 on the 21 yard line. Tyler Lancaster pushed the ball forward to the 12 yard line, then Aubrey Link drove the ball through the middle to the 5 yard line for a 1 & 5 from the 3 yard line. Link fi res the ball, yet there was a fl ag on the play against the defense, putting the ball half of the distance closer. On the next play, Link kept the ball for a score that regained the lead since the first quarter, 20-16.
The third Amari Cotton touchdown came on a 67-yard rush, with the extra-point attempt being good, to now lead Red Boiling Springs by four points in the final quarter, however, Bulldog Aubrey Link cashed in another touchdown for the Bulldogs, with 8:04 left to play, giving them a three-point lead after the successful kick was made.
Two back-to-back Joe Burns touchdowns were recalled for penalties, including an unsportsmanlike conduct on the host, granting Red Boiling Springs a huge opportunity to keep the lead. Bulldog defense denied all attempts to advance the ball, forcing Jo Byrns to a 2 & 27 with time ticking away. Jo Byrns gains twelve yards for 3 & 15, with less than three minutes to play. The Red Devils pick up the fi rst down inside the 20 yard line. Bulldogs deny the next attempt, for 2 & 9 on 16 yard line. The Red Devils then pick up a 1st and goal from the 6 yard line, with 45.6 seconds left to play. Bulldogs defensive line walled up Amari Cotton at the line. 3rd and goal from the 5 yard line, and the Red Devil’s pass fell incomplete, bringing up 4 and goal. Pass fell incomplete and Red Boiling Springs claimed the victory by a final score of 27-24.
This was the 4th time in school history that Red Boiling Springs was able to achieve five wins or more in a season. RBS was led by senior quarterback Aubrey Link as he rushed for three touchdowns and threw for one more in the victory.
RBS’ defense forced a 3-and-out on the game’s opening possession, followed by the Bulldogs scoring on their first offensive drive. Running back Tyler Lancaster led the Bulldogs down the fi eld before Link punched in a 1-yard touchdown run.
The Bulldogs pulled back within a possession midway through the third quarter as Link hit Joseph Birdwell on a 7-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. Following the PAT, RBS trailed 16-13, with 7:41 left in the third quarter.
“Joseph has been there all year long and when we need something,” Coach Link said, “He’s the guy we look to.”
The Bulldog defense rose to the occasion as they stopped Jo Burns four consecutive times to run the Red Devils over on downs inside the 5-yard line with 30 seconds remaining. RBS quarterback Aubrey Link took two knees to preserve the 27-24 victory.
The Bulldogs finish 5-5 overall and 1-2 in Region 4/1A action to fi nish in third place overall. Red Boiling Springs will hit the road as they travel to Whitwell next week as the #3 seed out of Region 1A for the first round of the Class 1A playoffs.