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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Making the Grade: Boiling Springs 44, Big Spring 28

Boiling Springs has a bit of moxy cooking this year, and you can clearly see the Bubblers are comfortable and confident in their own skin in a big game.

Big Spring was jacked up and ready to go at home Friday night, but when the game went a little sideways for the Bulldogs offensively in the second quarter they struggled to answer the bell.

And the Bubblers made them pay dearly.

All the little things — zero turnovers, fewer penalties, better special teams, big plays — they all belonged to the Bubblers in a 16-point victory that was never in doubt in the second half despite Big Spring closing the gap to 10 points at one juncture. Boiling Springs knew exactly what was needed and simply went out there and executed.

Big Spring is a playoff team in my mind in Class 4A. They fell to 5-2 overall and could easily be a 7-3 squad by the end of the regular season. And they have the components to win a playoff game for the first time in program history. This game will help. That big-game seasoning will serve the Bulldogs well going forward.

From what I see, Boiling Springs is a legitimate District 3 Class 3A and Capital Division contender.

Time to hand out some grades.


Quarterback: Colin Lunde is an experienced senior, and it really shows. I mean, the Bubblers had him throw the first play of the game and he delivered a dart. His next two tosses, and final two passes by the way, went for touchdowns and covered 103 yards. If the Bubblers need to air it out, he has the arm and savvy to chuck it around. He also runs the Wing-T like a surgeon from under center and has those ball fakes and slick handoffs down to a science. They are important. Grade: A

Running Back: What’s not to like about the 1-2 inside, outside punch delivered by fullback Aidan Metzger and halfback Joey Menke? Although Metzger left the game in the third quarter and didn’t return, the Bubblers had control. Menke gets the edge on those buck sweeps so smooth, and it appears effortless. And he is faster than you think. He has what I call sneaky deceptive speed. Of his 118 yards rushing, 102 came on the ground. Grade: A

Wide Receivers: The first touchdown catch by Carson Garvey was just a 6-foot-2 kid going up over a smaller corner who had a better shot at the ball in the air and making the grab over top of his helmet. Slick catch. Menke is also an option out of his halfback/wing spot. But I saw two or three other options out there as well for the Bubblers. I’m convinced this team could throw it and be successful if necessary. Grade: B

Offensive Line: It was a stalemate the first half across the board, but the second half belonged to the lads up front. The left side was collapsing everybody and everything to open up massive lanes for Menke to pick and choose. Very few negative plays, that’s a Wing-T thing and it matters. A 5.3 yards per carry is respectable. Grade: B+

Defensive Line: Most of the pressure in the pass rush came from blitzes, and it confused the Big Spring OL. So, they were just OK on that front. In the run game, particularly on the edges and in stretches inside the tackles, they were very good. Only 110 rushing yards allowed.  Grade: B

Linebackers: The outside ‘backers set the edge to perfection all game, and even on the swing passes to the Bulldogs’ speed guy they were in the right spots. It was impressive. Trey McCardell needs to blitz more. I’m not a coach, but when that kid comes he gets home more often than not. He was a weapon when he blitzed. Grade: A

Secondary: Got beat several times on long passes and another couple times overthrows were their friend because they were beat as well. They were pretty good in run support, but they were more fortunate at times than good. Grade: C

Special Teams: So, how important were those 195 kick return yards in the first half? Coach Brad Zell said it was a difference-maker for the Bubblers. Boiling Springs had three options in the return game and all got upfield in a hurry and broke tackles. It’s a weapon. The kick coverage was a wee bit shaky, though, allowing 100 yards in returns the first half. Short kickoffs fixed that problem, but that’s not ideal. Kicking game was fine. Missed one extra point, but Jack Laing did bang home a 38-yard field goal.  Grade: B+


Quarterback: Ethan Eisenberg is a very good quarterback. And he’s only a junior. He did struggle at times in this one, though. He missed a couple of deep shots in the first half when the Bubblers were making a 21-point run to seize control. And the offense punted five times in a row at one point in the first half. After starting 3 of 4 he missed his next six leading into halftime and saw his streak of incompletions grow to eight before throwing a couple second-half touchdown passes. He went with the underneath receivers the second half, which was a good adjustment. Those same underneath receivers were available the first half as well, except he missed them because he was only looking deep. Grade: C+

Running Back: Man, does Dillon Wakefield run hard. He is not easy to bring down, either. I was impressed with his vision after he went through the hole more than anything. Getting to 118 yards on 18 carries is some pretty good work against this defense.  Grade: A

Wide Receivers: The Bulldogs have a little bit of everything to work with — speed to go deep, guys who run good routes and find space. Connor Black, who had two catches for 50 yards and also had a 52-yard TD catch-and-run called back for ineligible man downfield, needs more targets. Going forward, my guess is he will be more involved in the offense. Grade: B

Offensive Line: I saw some really good stuff on the inside blocking that opened some holes and did some damage. Getting the edge set and being able to use their speed on the perimeter was not executed well. Straight up pass blocking was fine, but when the Bubblers blitzed they whiffed on protection pick-up and left their QB out to dry several times. Grade: C+

Defensive Line: They pushed back early, but once Boiling Springs found its groove they were caught in a more reactive mode rather than proactive and aggressive. They couldn’t get a stop on short yardage to get off the field when the offense needed the ball back, either. Grade: C

Linebackers: Other than Wakefield, this group struggled. Making stops on those fullback traps wasn’t killing them, but the edge — particularly the right side — was a real problem the second half. Lots of green grass to choose from on those buck sweeps the second half. Grade: C-

Secondary: Again, they were MIA in run support when it came to the edge, and they were making way too many tackles 10 and 15 yards down the field. Lost coverage on Menke late in the first half and got burned for a 73-yard touchdown. That first catch was good defense, just a 6-2 wideout winning a battle against a 5-8 guy covering him. Grade: C

Special Teams: The kick coverage, punts and kickoffs alike, was atrocious the first half. I mean 195 return yards by intermission is a game changer and you don’t recover from that. Way too many missed tackles and lane discipline seemed to be MIA. Here’s a perfect example of why special teams killed the Bulldogs: Wakefield nailed a 40-yard punt that was fair caught inside the 10. But an illegal motion penalty on the Bulldogs forced him to kick it again from 5 yards back. The ensuing punt was returned 71 yards.  Grade: D

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