It was a disappointing end to a very good football season for the Batesville Bulldogs.
The state’s No. 3 ranked Bulldogs suffered a 17-14 loss at home to the Indian Creek Braves in the first round of the Class 3A Sectional No. 30. It was the first loss of the season for the Bulldogs and it came at the worst time.
“I just feel bad about the loss right now,” BHS head coach Eric Heppner said after the game. “This is just not how we wanted it to end.
“This was a very special year with a special group of players,” he added.
It was not the same team the Bulldog faithful had watched all season. Some of that is to the credit of the Braves, but some was just their own miscues.
The passing game was not as efficient as it has been all season. Quarterback Connor Schuck was just 8-of-25 passing for 93 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
On nights the Bulldogs did not need to pass, they would rely on the ground game. Success on the ground was hard to sustain as well. The Bulldogs finished with 134 yards on 33 carries. Austin Westerfeld led the way with 47 yards on 11 carries.
The Braves set the tone early in the game and scored on their first possession. Brenden Smith, who finished with just over 200 yards rushing, capped a 13 play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run at the 5:48 mark. A Dylan Walker extra point made it 7-0 before the Bulldogs’ offense even stepped on the field.
The Bulldogs moved the ball with some success, but found themselves faced with a fourth down and 10 at the IC 35 yard line. Schuck’s pass fell incomplete and the Braves took over on downs.
Connor Dickey intercepted a pass two plays later to give the Bulldogs the ball on the 49 yard line. A penalty on the play moved the ball ahead to the Indian Creek 34. Batesville’s drive stalled again in IC territory as a fourth down pass by Schuck was knocked down by Cory Utecht.
The Braves took a 14-0 lead on a 14-yard touchdown run by Smith with 6:59 to play in the half.
The Bulldogs bounced back with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Schuck to Ben Wilson with 1:20 to play in the first half.
The first half ended with the Braves in front 14-7.
The Braves extended their lead to 17-7 on a 25-yard field goal with less than a minute to play in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs later countered with their second touchdown of the game. A pair of catches by Ben Wilson set the stage. Schuck would later find Boston Gowan on a pass from four yards out. Heil’s extra point made it 17-14.
The Bulldogs stepped up on defense and forced the Braves to punt in their own territory. The punt appeared to ricochet off an offensive lineman and into the hands of BHS sophomore Seth Williamson. Williamson was brought down at the 30 yard line.
Unable to get much going offensively, Heppner sent Heil and the field goal unit out for a 42-yard attempt to tie the game. Heil had enough distance, but the ball was slightly off the mark.
“I had no doubt he could make it,” Heppner commented. “I would make the same decision again if I had to … it was just a little wide.”
The Braves were able to burn time off the clock and move the ball down the field.
Batesville managed one more offensive possession with little success. Pinned back at the 25 yard line with no timeouts, the Bulldogs failed to meet the 10 yard requirement for a first down and turned the ball back over on downs. Indian Creek was able to run out the clock.
“We knew Indian Creek had a good team and they would come in here prepared,” Heppner said. “We had our chances, but just did not capitalize when we needed to most.
The Bulldogs finished the season with a mark of 9-1 … not bad for a group of seniors that went 0-9 as freshmen.
“I just cannot say enough about this group,” Heppner said. “Great kids with a great work ethic and attitude …”