4 Questions with Bowdon head coach Richard Fendley

Credit: Joshua Cato

Credit: Joshua Cato

Today’s interviewee is Bowdon coach Richard Fendley, whose team rallied from a 19-0 deficit to beat Early County in the Class A Division II quarterfinals last week. Fendley became Bowdon’s coach in 2018, when the program had only 28 players. After a 1-9 finish, Bowdon has gone 37-11 and won three consecutive region titles, and it currently has 64 players on its varsity roster.

1. Down 19-0, what got your team back in the game, and how does that game compare to other exciting games you’ve been involved in? “As a coach, I have never had a team come back after trailing 19-0. I have had teams fight back to make it respectable but not come back and win. I would say two things helped our players come back from that big of a hole. First, mental toughness. Our kids have created a culture of being mentally tough. It is how they work out in the offseason, how hard they run in the summer and how they fight each Friday night. That kind of toughness is not a switch you turn on. It is something you breed into your culture. Second, is family. Being a small school, our players and coaches are very close. Our players trust the coaches, and the coaches trust the players. You have to have a genuine love for your team to play that hard for each other to overcome being down 19 points.”

2. What has been the reaction of your fans, school and community to that game and the season Bowdon is having? And how was the bus ride home? “Our fans at Bowdon are incredible. We have a true 12th man. They expect to win, and over the past few weeks I have been hearing from the older fans that it feels like the old dominant Bowdon teams out there on Friday nights. That’s a good thing because back in the 1990s and early 2000s Bowdon played a lot of semifinal and state championship games. Our student section has been second to none. They have shown up loud and proud all year. When your student body is involved, that is a really special thing in high school or college football. Our bus ride home was long. I think three hours, but it was loud the first 45 minutes with the kids pumped about the way they won, and the last part they slept.”

3. For those who’ve not seen Bowdon play, what do you feel that you your team does that gives you a chance to win every Friday night? In particular, what do Robert McNeal and T.J. Harvison bring to the table? “Well, for those that haven’t seen Bowdon, there are several factors that make this team feel like they can win every Friday night. First, the players believe and trust that the coaches will put them in the best position to win. They will look you in the face and tell you they know their coaches can game plan. Second, is the toughness of our offensive line and defensive line. We have kids up front on both sides that will battle all night. Those kinds of blue-collar players are very important for success. Lastly are our two Division I players, QB Robert McNeal and RB T.J. Harvison. They are both great practice players and also high-IQ football players. That means they understand the game of football as well as understanding football situations. Both players are leaders. It is very important to a winning culture that your best players are some of your hardest workers on and off the field.”

4. What has the creation of Division II meant to schools like yours? “The creation of Class A D2 has both its pros and cons. One con is small regions, which cause more travel to find games. One positive is the fact that some of the bigger Class A schools that might double your enrollment are up a class, and it levels the playing field in the overall picture of playing for a state title. I think for Bowdon personally it has been good. We had to pick up some tough non-region games that prepared us for our playoff run.”

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