The much anticipated Red Boiling Springs football playoffs game (TSSAA State Division 1 Class 1A) against the Tigers of Whitwell (second place seed) was held on Friday, November 3, 2023.
Bulldog football enthusiasts traveled almost three hours south to gear up for the exciting match that kept spectators from both sides of the football field gripping at the edge of their seats. Red Boiling Springs entered the first round of the playoffs as the third seed team, which was only the fourth time in school history to achieve five wins in a season.
Although the score showed a blank on the side for Red Boiling Springs, the red and grey had no quit in them, and many great moments of determination from the Bulldogs were still being carried out on the field, which included an unexpected interception on an extra-point passing play, and yardage gains by Joseph Birdwell, Logan Eckhart, and Houston Taylor.
Senior Bulldog Quarterback Aubrey Link was injured late in the first quarter after a touchdown play was made by the Tigers. His little brother, Aiden Link (freshman) stepped in to help keep the battle for the victory alive.
Aiden Link was able to advance the football down the field through complete passes made to Dalton Dallas, Will Massey, Tyler Lancaster, and Houston Taylor. A pass from Aiden Link to Joseph Birdwell brought up a third down and five yards to go with 10:46 left in the second quarter. Link’s next pass was caught in the hands of Joseph Birdwell to move the sticks to a first down at the 41-yard line. Aiden Link’s next throw was batted away by Whitwell’s 6”4’ quarterback, McDougal, bringing up 2&10. Link’s next pass intended for Will Massey fell incomplete. The next pass, intended for Joseph Birdwell, met the fingertips of McDougal once again, bringing up 4 & 10. After Bulldog’s Head Coach Sean Link called for a timeout, his determined yet injured son, Aubrey Link hobbled back onto the field, but was unable to convert the downs, turning the football back over to the Tigers.
On defense, Bulldog Will Massey denied the second down attempt, yet the Tigers were able to add another score when the next pass was caught in the end zone, with 9:06 left to play in the second quarter.
Red Boiling Springs Head Coach Sean Link opted to put Bulldog quarterback Aiden Link back in the game, and lined up in the shotgun formation, handing the football off to Dalton Dallas, who advanced the ball forward, bringing up another important third down, with three yards still needed for the first down, and the football resting on the 41-yard line. Link hands the ball to Dalton Dallas, who executes a reverse to Joseph Birdwell to bring up a fourth down and one yard to go. Aiden Link gets the football into the hands of Tyler Lancaster, who ran right into a pack of four Tigers, but not before picking up the much-needed first down, with 6:59 left to play in the second quarter. Aiden Link then sailed a long pass into the air and was intercepted by Whitwell’s Quarterback McDougal, taking over once again. The Tigers’ next rusher was brought down by Bulldog Joseph Birdwell, who grabbed the runner around the ankles. After a few more plays the Tigers achieved the end zone with a McDougal fake, Whitwell now dominating 42-0.
The game clock then continued to tick nonstop, unless a timeout was enforced or another injury had occurred. The game announcers mentioned that Whitwell was possibly trying to avenge their previous losses by keeping their starters in the game with such an advantageous lead, while Red Boiling Springs was still out there playing with heart and determination even though the score was a shut-out match up to this point of the game. Whitwell added one more touchdown before the half-time buzzer sounded, yet the Bulldogs denied the extra-point attempt, now trailing 48-0.
Returning to action in the third quarter, Bulldog Houston Taylor tackled the Tiger runner, followed by a denial from Bulldog Tyler Lancaster, however, on the third down, the Tiger’s next play ended in the endzone, with 9:35 left in the third quarter. The kick was good, and Whitwell was now leading, 55-0.
Aiden Link in as quarterback for the Bulldogs… Snap… Pass complete to Dalton Dallas, bringing up second down and 15 yards to go. It was noticed that Whitwell was finally substituting for their younger players. An incomplete pass intended for Dalton Dallas brought up the third down with fifteen yards to go, and 7:15 remaining on the game clock for the third quarter.
Even being injured, the courage and discipline displayed by Red Boiling Springs’ Aubrey Link was shown each time he hobbled back and forth to the line of scrimmage, despite the visible pain. Aubrey Link, now back in the game for Red Boiling Springs, sailed a pass to Joseph Birdwell who was able to advance enough to move the chains. It was amazing to witness the determination to see some points on the scoreboard, that earned admiration from both sides of the bleachers, however, Aubrey’s pass intended for Will Massey fell incomplete, bringing up second down and ten.
A one-handed catch at the 25-yard line by Bulldog Joseph Birdwell reeled in a five-yard advancement, but eventually, the football was turned over on downs, with under four minutes left to play in the third quarter. Red Boiling Springs then recovered a Whitwell fumble.
Aubrey Link stepped back in the game and throwed a pass to Tyler Lancaster, who found some running room to pick up the first down. Trying to get on the board, Bulldog Aubrey Link fakes a handoff to Lancaster and sneaks a beautiful pass into the hands of Houston Taylor in the end zone, marking their first points of the game. The extra-point attempt failed, score now 55-6.
Starting the fourth quarter of action, the Whitwell runner ran right into Bulldog Chris Martinez, who was stopped right in his tracks, forcing their first turnover on downs in this contest.
Red Boiling Springs Dalton Dallas then dashed to the end zone on a 1 & 5 from the 42-yard line, walking in untouched. Aiden Link then came back on the field in his big brother’s shoes, yet the extra-point attempt failed.
The Tigers took possession of the football, however, Bulldog Will Massey tackled the runner on the next three consecutive plays, followed by a tackle by Bulldog Jordan Ray, with 4:55 left in the game, to get the football back from the Tigers. Bulldog #74, whose name was not on the roster, tackled the next Tiger runner, followed by the Bulldog’s entire defensive line to bring up third down and seven yards to go for their opponent. Bulldogs Will Massey and Chris Martinez were in on the next stop, and then a tackle by Will Massey forced Red Boiling Springs’ second turnover on downs, with 56 seconds left in the game.
Bulldog quarterback Aubrey Link hobbled back out to the line of scrimmage and set up his play, yet some confusion on the field resulted in a five-yard penalty, so everyone chose to line up and shake hands instead. Final score Whitwell 55, Red Boiling Springs 12.
Red Boiling Springs fought hard in this game, achieving a greatly improved season, showing great courage and determination, giving all they had to give until the very last bell sounded, ending 5-6 for the season. The seniors will be greatly missed, yet the future at Red Boiling Springs still has a bright outlook, with freshman Aiden Link’s quarterback skills are bound to keep improving each season.