BONIFAY — The theme from Rocky blared through the Memorial Field speakers on Friday prior to a version of champion versus upstart.
The defending District 3-1A titlist Holmes County embodied the brash Apollo Creed. Visiting Bozeman took the role of the scrappy Rocky Balboa.
The ending here, a 39-20 win for the Blue Devils, mirrored that of Rocky. The champ was the victor, but not without some noticeable bruising.
Bozeman held the lead after one quarter and pulled to within five points in the third, but the veteran Blue Devils responded each time in moving to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the district.
“We bounced back a lot last year and haven’t been in that situation yet,” Holmes County coach Brad Johnson said. “But we came back and did what we had to do to win.”
Bozeman coach Loren Tillman also noted the Bucks (3-1, 0-1) hadn’t been in tight games yet this season. Holmes County provided a challenge that kept the Bucks from a statement win.
“The biggest thing to me is we haven’t been pushed up to now,” Tillman said. “We wondered if we could get by with some things, but Holmes County exposed them and we know what we have to do to get better.”
Ty Russ returned a Jacob Martinez interception 32 yards to punctuate the win. It was the second straight interception thrown by Martinez, who was 3 of 12 for 77 yards.
His legs kept Bozeman in the game, however, with a 10-yard run, his third score of the game, narrowing the gap to 25-20 with 5:06 to go in the fourth quarter.
Holmes County replied with a nine-play, 80-yard drive capped by Kodi Russ’ second score to open the fourth quarter. Bozeman turned the ball over on downs then tossed two interceptions to seal the outcome.
Bozeman couldn’t harness the momentum in the first quarter to hold back Holmes County, despite leading 14-7 on a pair of Martinez scores.
His 58-yarder following a penalty that erased a Javoni Bell TD run tied the game with 3:41 to play in the first quarter. Bozeman recovered a Kodi Russ’ fumble on Holmes County’s next possession and Martinez, who had 134 yards rushing, scored three plays later from 16.
Bozeman gave the ball back on a muffed punt return that handed the Blue Devils possession at the Bucks’ 35. Kodi Russ scored his second touchdown from 9 yards to give Holmes County the lead.
Bozeman went three-and-out on its next possession and Ty Russ hauled in a 61-yard pass from Jacky Miles to cap the first-half scoring. Holmes County moved to the 1 on its last drive, but two penalties kept the Blue Devils from adding to their lead.
Tillman said the inability to do anything with the ball to start the second half also was disheartening.
“It could have been really big if we could have fed off that last stop in the first half,” Tillman said. “Their experience was a benefit.”
Kodi Russ had 120 yards on 21 carries and Miles passed for 196 while being tended to multiple times for minor injuries.
“It wasn’t do or die, but it was a big game,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t for all the marbles, but we got a lot of marbles out of this one.”
Holmes County is at Port St. Joe next week. Bozeman hosts Baker for Homecoming.
Bozeman 14 0 6 0 – 20
Holmes County 7 12 6 14 - 39
HCHS – T.Russ 7 pass from Miles (T.Russ kick) 6:34, 7-0 HCHS
BOZ - Martinez 58 run (Benjamin kick) 3:41, 7-7
BOZ - Martinez 16 run (Benjamin kick) 1:06, 14-7, BOZ
HCHS – K.Russ 9 run (kick failed) 10:27, 14-13
HCHS – T.Russ 61 pass from Miles (run failed) 6:35, 19-14 HCHS
HCHS – F.Russ 18 run (pass failed) 6:54, 25-14
BOZ - Martinez 10 run (kick failed) 5:06, 25-20
HCHS – K.Russ 7 run (Newton pass from KRuss) 11:54, 33-20
HCHS – T.Russ 32 interception return (kick failed) 3:30, 39-20