For the fans who stuck around until the end, Friday night’s (Oct. 11) homecoming tilt between Batesville and visiting Franklin County turned out to be rather entertaining despite a persistent rain shower.
The host Bulldogs were in the game through the late stages of the final quarter, just as they’d been the previous two weeks. But like in those games, the opponent was ahead at the horn; the Wildcats prevailed 28-14, handing BHS a fourth straight loss.
“We’ve got to be better or our season just has two weeks left,” coach Evan Ulery said, previewing the sectional’s first round Oct. 25.
“We had very good moments tonight but we also had inexcusable blunders,” he added. “We all take the blame as a team.”
Ahead 21-14 midway through the fourth, FC received a punt at the Batesville 30-yard-line and advanced inside the red zone. After one play, the scoreboard malfunctioned and was stuck on 6:31 for well over a minute. From that point, the officials kept the time on the field.
Wildcat quarterback Bridger Bolos had a nice gain but a bad snap forced 4th-and-4 inside the 10. A holding call negated Hunter Tschaenn’s touchdown run, moving FC back to the 21. Tschaenn then ran for 17 to get all the yardage back.
“Those cannot happen,” Ulery said of the 4th-down conversion and a 3rd-and-27 conversion late in the first quarter that was Bolos’ only completed pass and led to the game’s first score. “You could feel the momentum and energy shift after those two drives.”
Tschaenn tramped into the end zone one play later, his 27th carry for 216 yards.
The Dogs had one last drive with approximately 2:45 remaining. Sophomore QB Travis Lecher had his best run of the night for 21 yards and had one of his three completions (to Charlie Dice), but FC broke through for two sacks to finish the win.
“We knew FC was good, but I thought we had an opportunity for our first marquee win,” said the coach. “We didn’t play terrible by any stretch, but unfortunately let another one slip away.”
The first quarter was scoreless but not uneventful. On the opening drive, Tschaenn picked off a Lecher pass near midfield. FC couldn’t capitalize, running Tschaenn seven straight times but turning the ball over on downs deep in Bulldog territory.
A turnover ended BHS’ next drive as well, a fumbled handoff the culprit as Austin Hill recovered for the Cats. This time, the guests would cash in. A fumbled snap led to the fateful 3rd-and-27, when Bolos hit Jacob Schatzle. Tschaenn made it 1st-and-goal and, a play later, Bolos rushed in from 5 yards out.
Despite two 15-yard penalties on FC – the Cats were flagged 8 times for 75 yards – the Bulldogs punted on the next drive.
FC called seven straight run plays and were knocking on the door again. After a timeout, the Cats went with a pass that Lecher corraled for a touchback interception.
“Travis has those good instincts,” said Ulery. “He could tell they were going to throw, played technique and jumped the route.”
The resulting drive had some positives but ended in a downer for the home team. Starting tailback Jake Cruse marked off 15 yards on the first play and Lecher connected with Kurt Siefert for a 20-yard pickup. Cruse took the next handoff and galloped for what looked like a 47-yard TD. However, FC stripped the ball at the goal line for a touchback.
“Jake’s lightning in a bottle and gives us a new dimension,” Ulery said of his senior who eclipsed the 150-yard mark. “I’m pleased that mentally, he came back and played hard when he could have easily been down on himself.”
In the scheme of the game, the play was forgotten due to a subsequent FC punt and quick strike that put BHS up 7-6 at halftime. Getting the ball at midfield, Lecher took a 2nd-and-11 snap and fired one to Siefert for a 51-yard TD down the left side. Braiden Foster’s kick put the hosts up by one.
Batesville went up by eight early in the second half. Forced to punt, Foster’s boot glanced off a Wildcat player and was recovered by JT Linkel. Cruse promptly scored from 20 yards out.
The Cats answered with a 57-yard scoring drive, aided by a BHS personal foul call. Calling 9 run plays, the last went to Josh Bauman for 4 yards. Tschaenn’s conversion run tied the game at 14.
A sack ended the Dogs’ next possession and FC marched right down for the go-ahead score. Tschaenn went around the right side for 37 yards and Bolos finished the drive with runs of 8 and 3 yards.
FC gained 16 first downs to Batesville’s six. The Cats gained 345 yards on the ground.
“A big thing is keeping morale high with an opportunity to win next week,” Ulery said. “We’ve had close calls with four of the teams in our sectional. Whether we play them or not, I like our chances to break through. I hope fans see this team is fighting and playing hard.”
Batesville (2-6) will host senior night Friday as the winless Connersville Spartans come calling. The Spartans have not won a game since September 2017.