With just over 100 seconds remaining, 86 yards to trek and no timeouts, it seemed unlikely that Batesville and sophomore quarterback Travis Lecher could pull off a victory with visiting Rushville leading by a point Friday (Sept. 13) at the Dawg Pound.
But the young QB scrambled for 11 yards and completed three consecutive passes for a total of 59 yards before an incompletion and a Lions’ timeout with 23.1 seconds to go.
The Bulldogs were called for a false start, but on the very next snap, Lecher found senior Charlie Dice in the end zone from 21 yards out to put the hosts up 25-20. The 2-point conversion having failed, Rushville set up at its own 35-yard-line with only 10.2 on the clock. One play later, Lecher intercepted a pass and knelt down as time expired.
“I was very proud of the first half and those last three minutes,” said Bulldog head coach Evan Ulery, “but we made a lot of mistakes in those middle 20 minutes or so, a lot of things that put us in a position to lose the game.
“But things happen for a reason, and Travis was given the opportunity to orchestrate a long drive, kind of showcase his arm and keep us alive. He made some good throws and checkdowns and knew when to run.”
Rushville was driving on the previous possession, looking to grind out enough first downs to ice the win. Four consecutive first downs on the ground made the Bulldogs’ comeback hopes look grim.
Batesville started using its three timeouts at 2:41, also at 2:35 and 1:50. After the third and final, the Lions had 4th-and-goal from the 6; freshman quarterback Austin Vance threw a tap pass to a sweeping Jake Vance, who was stoned for a loss of 8 yards and turnover on downs.
“We were looking to conserve as much time as possible and hopefully get a stop,” said Ulery. “The big thing is having your linebackers and defensive line fill the gaps. Also make sure your defensive backs communicate and don’t fall asleep. The defense has to be aware of the down and distance. Kudos to them for giving us that opportunity.”
On the winning drive, it was important to get good reads on the Lions’ defense.
“I thought our guys did a good job taking what they gave us,” said Ulery. “We started playing faster, going no-huddle and getting up to the line. Rushville was out of position on a couple pass plays, which benefited us.”
Lecher’s first big completion was just a simple dump-off to senior Jake Cruse for a 25-yard gain.
“On that play, there was nothing there,” Ulery explained. “That’s a yell call, where Jake yells ‘ball’ and Travis knows exactly where he is to drop it down. That’s a huge play to keep (the Lions) on their heels and stay up-tempo.”
A 32-yarder to Trey Peters preceded an incomplete pass. Rushville tried to stop the bleeding with a timeout.
On the winning play, Ulery praised offensive lineman Conner Batchelor for setting the edge and allowing Lecher some time in the pocket.
The first half was all Batesville. After back-to-back punts to start the game, BHS’ Brayden Linkel took the second of those punts about 30 yards with a Lions’ personal foul tacked on.
In the red zone, Cruse gained a first down just prior to Lecher’s 3-yard touchdown run.
After a turnover on downs, the Dogs needed just three plays to make it 13-0 early in the second frame. On a 3rd-and-8, Lecher rolled to his right and spotted an open Dice for a 66-yard catch-and-run.
Another Lion turnover on downs ensued and the hosts started at their own 35. Cruse covered 79 yards on three carries (sandwiched around a BHS holding call), including a 64-yard jaunt to make it 19-0.
“We wanted to be able to line up and run the ball, and with Austin Pohlman out, Jake stepped in and did a pretty good job considering limited reps in practice” said his coach.
The home team struggled in the second half as Rushville dominated to score 20 unanswered before Batesville’s late heroics.
Continuing to utilize Josiah Hay (35 carries, 164 yds.) generously in the run game, Rushville moved downfield on the first possession after the break. On a 2nd-and-2, Vance threw a wideout screen to his namesake, who had a clear line for a 26-yard score.
After a BHS punt, the Lions went 67 yards on seven plays and shrugged off holding and false start penalties. On 4th-and-14, Vance lofted one into the waiting arms of Jake Vance for a 30-yard TD.
Before the fourth period, Rushville had taken the lead. On the last play of the third quarter, Jake Vance ran a sweep and cut back to outrun the BHS defense for 66-yard score and 20-19 lead.
“Even up 19-0, we told the guys they were one or two plays from letting them back in the game,” said Ulery. “We told them, ‘you can’t take a play off.’ What happened? We weren’t sustaining things and flat out weren’t executing.”
Lecher passed for 145 yards and the 2 TDs to Dice, also rushing for 52 yards. Cruse ran for 133. The Vances hooked up for 105 yards in the air and Jake rushed for another 90.
The Lions had 15 first downs to BHS’ 8. Rushville had 6 penalties for 45 yards; Batesville had 7 for 70.
“Our guys found a way to win, but we’re never satisfied,” said Ulery. “We have a lot of things to work on. You never know, with a win like this we could start gaining confidence and elevating our game.”
BHS (2-2, 1-0 Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference) will host East Central Friday, 7 p.m. Rushville (0-4, 0-1) has homecoming with Connersville Friday.