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Empire’s Stephen Price soaked in the moment. He and his Bulldog (9-2) teammates had just beaten Crescent (7-4) 46-13 — Empire’s first football playoff win since 1991.
Price had battled a leg injury much of the season. He missed the Bulldogs’ final non-district game against Dibble back in September and was limited in others.
But the senior running back and linebacker kept his perspective.
“It was hard especially because it was my senior year,” he said after Friday’s playoff victory. “But I knew that this was life and that God has a plan. I laid it in his hands.”
Price shined in the first playoff game the Bulldogs had hosted since 1989. He rushed for 216 yards on 24 carries and added a defensive highlight, returning an interception 36 yards to the end zone.
But Price was not one to take the credit. As he spoke about the playoff win, he put over his teammates more than his own performance.
“The linemen did the best job they did all season,” he said. “The defense was 100 percent strong, Evan (Whitt) was doing a great job at quarterback and Cole (Bridges) is amazing at fullback.”
Price specifically mentioned how happy he was to see fellow senior Bridges score his first touchdown of the season. He also praised junior running back Dillon Twigg, one of the state’s top rushers.
“I loved it,” he said about Friday’s victory, “especially with Twigg having a great season and having the linemen we have.”
Empire coach Tony Roberts said it was good to have Price back on the field. He praised the senior for his toughness.
“I just loved his attitude and his courage,” Roberts said. “He was basically playing on a broken leg earlier this season. He did the same thing his sophomore year.”
The coach echoed Price’s sentiments that, while Price runs the ball well, that Twigg and Bridges are just as important to the running game.
“Everyone knows what Price is going to do and he knows what he needs to do,” Roberts said. “But you can say that about Dillon and about Cole Bridges. Cole doesn’t always get the credit he should get, for stepping in for Stephen earlier this year.”
Price’s sophomore year was the same year Empire opened the playoffs against Hollis, a game the Bulldogs lost 48-13. Price missed that game — he was watching from the top of the press box because of injuries. But he is confident that the Bulldogs will be ready when they head to Hollis (10-0) this Friday for the second round of the Class A playoffs.
“I’m sure our team will be up to the challenge,” he said. “We just need to keep playing at 100 percent, like a team, having confidence and leaving it all on the field.”
He and his coach know they have a tough task ahead, but that the Bulldogs have a good chance to win.
“They are a good football team, and we’ll have to be ready to play them,” Roberts said. “But they’ll have to be ready to play us, because we are a better football team.”