BROWNSTOWN – The Brownstown Braves started off rather sluggish Friday night (Nov. 2) in their home sectional final against Batesville.
That's decidedly not how they finished.
Trailing 20-7 at intermission, BCHS had every gear in motion in the second half. The Braves were overpowering on offense, special teams and – with the exception of a late strike by the Bulldogs – defense to lay claim to the Class 3A, Sectional 31 hardware by a 35-28 count.
"We talk about this every year, but a couple plays here and there is the difference in the game," said Batesville head coach Evan Ulery, whose first three seasons at BHS have ended with postseason disappointment in away stadiums.
"With the higher stakes, everything gets magnified, and we made some costly mistakes," he added.
The home team didn't gain its first lead until the first play of the final stanza. To end the third, the Braves advanced the ball from their own 37-yard-line down to the BHS 2 on just 3 plays, the big one a 45-yard pass to running back Derek Thompson. Quarterback Hayden Kinsler's 2-yard run tied the game at 20 and Ethan Sevakis' kick made it 21-20.
Neither side could gain first down on their next possessions and were forced to punt. From their own 15, the Dogs picked up a pair of first downs. The next play, though, saw Brownstown jar the ball from Brayden Linkel and linebacker Matthew Bell fell on it.
In BHS territory, the Braves marched 42 yards in 6 plays as fullback Braeden Walker took it in from the 6. Despite the extra point, the Bulldogs were within one score with 5 minutes on the game clock.
The next four plays spelled disaster for the visitors. Quarterback Trey Heidlage and Austin Siefert tried to add to an already successful passing night, but a trio of the former's throws fell to the ground incomplete. Punting from near his own goal line, Nate Slavin sent one to the waiting Caleb Bollinger; the senior Brave took it down the left sideline for a 57-yard punt return and a 14-point lead, 35-20.
In less than two minutes, BHS cut the lead to 7. The big play on the drive was a 37-yard hookup with Charlie Dice, followed shortly by a 24-yard TD pass to Siefert. Dice was open for the 2-point conversion catch, making it 35-28.
The Bulldogs still had all three timeouts, but couldn't get the key stops as the Braves ran out the final two minutes and change for the victory.
"Our offense sputtered some but got back in a rhythm on that last drive," Ulery said. "We kept fighting and fighting but unfortunately ran out of time."
Bulldog fans saw a familiar sight early in the contest ... quick scoring drives on big plays. Batesville opened the game with touchdowns on the first two possessions.
On the 10th play of the opening drive, Linkel shook off some tacklers for a 22-yard catch and run; Slavin's kick was blocked for a 6-0 start. BC gained a first down but had to punt, something the hosts did often in the first half. BHS needed just 4 plays to make it 13-0. Austin Pohlman went up the middle for 41 yards. A play later, Heidlage scored from 31 yards out.
The Dogs were driving again but stalled to start the second frame. The Braves used 7 plays and one 4th-down conversion for their first TD, a 19-yard run by Thompson.
After exchanging punts, Batesville went on an extended drive. Linkel moved 39 yards to the BC 11 after controlling a bobbled catch. Soon, Heidlage was scoring his second TD. Brownstown, however, scored on a 10-play answer; Kinsler passed to Thompson for a 2-yard score.
Heidlage passed for 238 yards unofficially and Siefert had 10 grabs for over 120 yards, both capping off exceptional careers in blue. Other seniors playing their final game were Slavin, Adam Bedel, Alex Westerfeld, Devin Scripture, Tyler Myers, Quinn Werner, Devon Meeks, Zach Jones, Danny Aylor, Caleb Raab, Alex Love and Abram Garcia.
"The seniors put in so much time and effort to come this close," said their coach. "There are a lot of memories. I hope they enjoyed every minute of it."
Ulery was also effusive in thanking everyone connected to his program, from coaches and their wives to administration, parents, the community and the student section.
"It takes a lot of people making sacrifices to allow us to do this, and we'll strive to get better each year."
Batesville finished at 9-3. Brownstown (11-1) visits unbeaten Evansville Memorial in the regional.
Braves 35, Bulldogs 28
Batesville - 13 7 0 8 - 28
Brownstown Central - 0 7 7 21- 35
B - Brayden Linkel 22-yard pass from Trey Heidlage, kick blocked; 9:18
B - Heidlage 31-yard run, Nate Slavin kick; 5:34
BC - Derek Thompson 19-yard run, Ethan Sevakis kick; 9:29
B - Heidlage 1-yard run, Slavin kick; 1:58
BC - Thompson 2-yard pass from Hayden Kinsler, Sevakis kick; 8:29
BC - Kinsler 2-yard run, Sevakis kick; 11:56
BC - Braeden Walker 6-yard run, Sevakis kick; 5:07
BC - Caleb Bollinger 57-yard punt return, Sevakis kick; 4:28
B - Austin Siefert 24-yard pass from Heidlage, Charlie Dice pass from Heidlage; 2:49
First Downs - Batesville 13, Brownstown 16
Total yards - Batesville 390, Brownstown 347
Rushing yards - Batesville 36-152, Brownstown 45-259
Passing yards - Batesville 238, Brownstown 88
Penalties/yards - Batesville 1-0, Brownstown 1-15
Fumbles/lost - Batesville 2-1, Brownstown 1-0
Rushing - Batesville: Heidlage 24-89 (2 TD), Austin Pohlman 9-61, Isaiah Riffle 3-2. Brownstown: Walker 14-108 (TD), Sam Huber 4-12, Matthew Bell 4-25, Thompson 11-92 (TD), Bollinger 4-13, Kinsler 6-7 (TD), Grant Stuckwisch 2-2.
Passing - Batesville: Heidlage 18-27-238 (2 TD). Brownstown: Kinsler 8-12-88 (TD).
Receiving - Batesville: Siefert 10-121 (TD), Brayden Linkel 7-80 (TD), Dice 1-37. Brownstown: Huber 2-15, Bell 1-2, Thompson 2-47 (TD), Bollinger 1-1, Seth Borden 2-23.
(stats should be considered unofficial)
Will Fehlinger can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 112.