Head coach Ashley Harden asked, “Who’s got that Bulldog pride?” as everyone continued clapping to the beat.
“When I say ‘Bulldog,’ you say ‘pride,’” Harden continued, the words echoing throughout the field.
Butler savored plenty of Bulldog pride Friday night after its 34-14 win over Richmond Academy.
After enduring a 41-game losing streak it finally snapped last season, Butler is back in the postseason. The Bulldogs, the Region 3-AAA South No. 3 seed, upended the second-seeded Musketeers in the region playoff for their first state playoff berth since 2003.
“We’re one of the top 32 teams in the state right now,” said Harden, Butler’s third-year coach. “From being the worst team in the state a few years ago to being one of the top 32 that just says leaps and bounds about how much these kids have worked.”
Butler suffered three consecutive 0-10 seasons before Harden endured an 0-10 campaign his first year. Last year, Harden led Butler to a 7-3 record, though his team fell short of the playoffs. The Bulldogs, with just 31 players on the roster, entered Friday night’s game trying to seize their opportunity.
“When we were coming up, we said we didn’t want to be like that,” said senior fullback Jeffery Menefee, who began his career on a pair of 0-10 teams. “We wanted to overcome all that.”
Menefee wasn’t sure he’d be able to play against Richmond Academy after suffering a high ankle sprain late in the previous week’s game against Burke County. Menefee and starting quarterback Clayton Johnson (sprained shoulder) didn’t practice all week, but they weren’t going to miss the biggest game of the year.
Johnson completed 4 of 5 pass attempts for 72 yards, while Menefee rushed for 88 yards on 14 carries.
Butler (8-2) pounded the Musketeers with its relentless rushing game, which gained 350 yards on 43 carries. Christan Garnett led the way with 161 yards on 17 carries with three touchdowns. Yashem Coleman added 92 yards on seven rushes with a touchdown.
“We were just trying to get in the playoffs,” Garnett said. “We did today.”
After three consecutive trips to postseason play, Richmond Academy finishes at 5-5. The Muskeeters gained 73 yards on their opening drive, but they mustered just 108 rushing yards the rest of the game.
“We got beat up tonight by a better team,” Richmond Academy coach Chris Hughes said. “We knew we were going to have to play a good game, get some turnovers and get some help from them. We didn’t get much from them. They played a good game.”