No matter the outcome of Friday night's title match between Bowsher and host Start, a City League championship was at stake and long overdue for both parties.
Jimmy Carter was President when either of the two teams claimed CL bragging rights.
Bowsher rode running back Khane Collins for four quarters, and the junior responded by rushing for 234 yards on 26 carries, including both of the Rebels’ scores to lead to a 16-15 victory over the Spartans.
"It was great," Bowsher coach Craig Lubinski said. "The kids played hard, and that's what we asked for them to do tonight. We told them if they did that they'd be City champs."
Collins' second TD carry — a 10-yard scamper with 1 minute, 47 seconds left in the third quarter — capped a seven-play, 89-yard scoring drive that proved to be the game-winner. Collins put the Rebels (6-4, 5-0 CL) in front of the Spartans by a point after finding the end zone for the two-point conversion.
The slimmest of leads held up as neither team put together a scoring drive during the final quarter.
However, the Spartans (5-5, 4-1) had their share of opportunities and drove into Rebel territory twice during the fourth quarter, only to come away without any points.
Start’s final possession happened during the final four minutes, but came to a halt when Dexter Johnson's pass fell incomplete on a fourth-and-10 play at Bowsher's 30 with just over a minute to play.
The incomplete pass resulted in an instant celebration on the Rebel sideline.
"We had the mindset that we were going to come out here and win," said Bowsher fullback/linebacker Mark Washington, who finished with 44 yards rushing on nine carries, as well as a two-point conversion.
The Spartans left the field disappointed, but were praised by their coach for a strong effort and season.
"Give Bowsher credit, they made the plays when they had to and unfortunately we couldn't," Start coach Tyson Harder said. "I'm proud of the way the kids fought until the very end, and I'm very proud of them."
The Spartans went into halftime with a 15-8 advantage.
Start took the game's opening drive and marched 67 yards on seven carries lead 7-0 in the regular-season finale.
The Spartans found success early with a productive ground game. It led to Deshawn Woodward finishing the drive by taking a pitch and racing around the left end for a 10-yard touchdown run at the 9:25 mark.
Bowsher responded with a long scoring drive of its own, running the football. They marched 60 yards on 13 plays with Collins capping the drive with a six-yard TD run with 2:18 left in the first quarter. He gained 39 yards on four carries during the drive.
After Collins also carried the ball into the end zone for the two-point conversion, the Rebels led 8-7.
The Spartans put together another scoring drive in the first half to take the lead into the break.
Johnson guided the Spartans on a seven-play, 85-yard scoring drive. Johnson connected with Tremain Batson on a 34-yard completion to put the Spartans in Rebel territory. Avian Boyd finished the drive with a three-yard touchdown run to help the Spartans lead 15-8 with 4:57 left in the half.
Start last won a CL championship in 1978, defeating Bowsher 41-6 in a Shoe Bowl championship contest, which previously determined the league champion.
Bowsher's last league championship took place in 1979. The Rebels defeated the Spartans 16-14 in the Shoe Bowl matchup.
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