LINDEN – At the end of it all, it was the time on the scoreboard that delivered the final blow to the AMA novice Bullfrogs. AMA had possession in Ripon territory and trailed by just five points, but time ticked away before the Bullfrogs were able to reach the end zone.
The Bullfrogs nearly overcame a 19-point deficit, yet time was not on their side as AMA lost to the Ripon Chiefs 19-14 in the Motherlode Valley Football novice Super Bowl Saturday afternoon in Linden.
“We came out a little slow and sluggish to start the game off,” AMA head coach Jarrod McCoy said following the loss. “That’s not the normal way we start off a football game. Normally we start strong and end strong. Unfortunately, they came out in the first half and took a 13-0 lead. In the second half, we were strong on both sides of the ball and we dominated that second half. They didn’t stand a chance. If there was one more minute on the clock, that would have been our game to win.”
With no time left on the scoreboard, the AMA players went back to their sideline, only to be greeted by an enthusiastic crowd donned in purple and gold chanting in unison, “BULLFROGS, BULLFROGS, BULLFROGS.”
The AMA football program has had to rebuild itself from the ground up and after missing the entire 2020 season to Covid and having low numbers previous years, reaching the Super Bowl was a major step forward for the entire program.
“It’s indescribable as to how much impact reaching the Super Bowl could possibly have on our program,” AMA football director Eric Peters said. “Our goal at the beginning of the year was to possibly have 50 kids and we had 72 kids sign up this year. Next year, I’m going to have to plan for 90 because of this team and because of the support of the community.”
The Bullfrogs played from behind the majority of the afternoon. Ripon scored on the opening possession of the game and the Bullfrogs turned the ball over on downs on their first drive. The Chiefs found the end zone for the second time early in the second quarter with a 62-yard touchdown pass and led AMA 13-0.
Trailing by 13, the Bullfrogs regrouped and showed they could move the ball on the Ripon defense. Quarterback Max Glanville kept the ball on a keeper and scampered 30 yards before being tackled at the Ripon 15. However, the drive stalled at the Chief 10 and AMA walked away with no points on the board.
The Bullfrog defense forced a punt and the offense took over deep inside Ripon territory, but for the second straight drive, AMA got in the red zone and couldn’t chip away at the deficit. AMA trailed Ripon 13-0 at halftime.
“Being in the red zone and not being able to score was a huge influence on this game,” McCoy said.
The second half didn’t start out the way AMA wanted. A solid drive was ended with a fumble recovered by Ripon. Following the turnover, the Chiefs added to their lead with a 73-yard touchdown pass. With 5:49 to play in the third quarter, AMA trailed 19-0.
The Bullfrogs figured out a weakness in the Ripon defense and a steady diet of runs from Micha Kalton, Cash Day and J.W. Fredrick moved the ball deep into Chief territory. And unlike the previous two trips into the Ripon red zone, this time the Bullfrogs found the end zone. Fredrick scored on a 17-yard run and the Bullfrogs trailed 19-7 with 2:41 left in the third quarter.
The Fredrick touchdown was the spark that AMA needed and perhaps planted a seed of doubt on the Ripon sideline.
“We are not a pushover team and I think Ripon knew that,” McCoy said. “They were prepared for us. They watched film on us and it showed. That first touchdown, we just installed that play on Wednesday, so we knew they hadn’t seen it and we knew it was something special. With that first touchdown, Ripon knew we were here to play and it kind of changed the momentum of the game into our favor.”
Following the score, the AMA defense again stepped up and forced a turnover on downs and the offense took over with momentum. Fredrick busted free for a 26-yard run to bring the ball to the Ripon 27. AMA continued to eat up yards on the ground and the drive was capped with a 1-yard touchdown by Kalton, who also supplied the PAT. With 4:41 to play, AMA trailed by only five.
AMA needed to get the ball back and Ripon did everything it could to milk as much time off the clock as possible. The game seemed over after the Chiefs converted on a 4th-and-13 with under two minutes to play. But with 1:29 remaining in the game, the Bullfrogs forced a fumble that was picked up by Everett Walker.
AMA still had a chance to win the game, but needed to go 65 yards in 89 seconds with no time outs. A 15-yard facemask helped the Bullfrogs get to midfield, but time expired before AMA could figure out how to reach the end zone.
“Our kids are amazing and that’s been all year long,” McCoy said. “We started off the season 0-3 and came into the Super Bowl with eight straight wins. Nobody gave us a chance to be here today, but we knew. We came together as a full team and were a dominant force to be reckoned with. Covid has been a big influence on the team this year. The first three games of the season, we only had 12 players and I wasn’t there the first three games because I had Covid. Once we got this full team together, we knew we had something special and we got better every single week.”