NORTH VERNON – Graduate two of your most prolific offensive players in school history. Evidently, they won’t be too missed.
Making his varsity debut at quarterback for the Batesville Bulldogs Friday night, sophomore Travis Lecher accounted for 377 of the visitors’ 494 total yards as BHS opened the 2019 season with a 45-28 victory over Jennings County. This marks the eighth straight year the Dogs have started 1-0 at the expense of the Panthers.
The 5-foot-9 Lecher rushed for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 14 carries and passed for 222 more while leading three different receivers to pay dirt. Junior Austin Pohlman added 103 yards and a score in his first game as the feature back.
A senior-dominated Panther offense showed itself capable of scoring, actually taking the second half by a 21-19 margin. However, the Bulldogs had opened up a 26-7 advantage by halftime and struck for two quick TDs in the opening three minutes of the second half to open up a daunting 31-point gap.
JCHS netted zero yards on the season’s first series and punted the ball away. Ignoring Lecher’s only two incompletions of the night, the Dogs advanced the pigskin 73 yards for the game’s first points. After runs of 19 and 42 yards, Lecher needed just one more to cross the goal line with 9:02 left in the first period. Sophomore Braiden Foster made the first of his three extra points.
The Panthers earned their initial first down on the next series, but the BHS defense forced a turnover on downs.
On the second play of the ensuing drive, Lecher hit senior tight end Charlie Dice for a 46-yard gainer to the JC 6-yard line. Pohlman raced in on the next snap for a 13-0 lead at the 5:39 mark.
The hosts put together their first scoring drive late in the opening quarter and into the second. Senior QB Lance Bailey led the Panthers on a 65-yard, 11-play jaunt that ended on Bailey’s 1-yard plunge.
Batesville seemed to be stymied on its next possession, even after Pohlman converted a 4th-and-1 near midfield. Lecher was sacked on the next play, as well as on third down; the Dogs faced 4th-and-12 from their own 49. But JC was called for an illegal substitution, then wanted timeout. BHS head coach Evan Ulery retrieved his punt team in favor of his offense. Lecher and junior Kurt Siefert promptly hooked up for a 46-yard catch-and-run to make it 19-7.
The home team responded with a 10-play drive, though turning it over on downs.
The Bulldogs had one more quick strike in them before the break. On a 1st-and-10 just inside Panther territory, senior speedster Jake Cruse took a Lecher offering all the way to the JC 2. Lecher darted in and Foster’s kick made it a 19-point game.
Jennings tried a failed onside kick to start the second half, leaving the guests with a short field. From the Panther 46, Lecher lofted a spiral into the hands of junior Trey Peters, who did the rest of the work for a 32-7 BHS lead.
After a JC punt into the end zone, Batesville had a 2nd-and-4 from its own 26. Lecher took a read-option to the left sideline, kept himself in play, then reversed his field for a 74-yard scoring scamper. It was 38-7 with 9:14 to go in the third.
A pair of long scoring drives followed for the Panthers, each ending on short TD runs by senior Owen Deaton.
Early in the fourth, Cruse’s kickoff return set BHS up at its own 44. Three plays later, Lecher found senior Brayden Linkel in the end zone for a 28-yard TD. Deaton would add a third TD with 5:37 left in the contest.
Jennings finished with 17 first downs to Batesville’s 11. Each side was called for 5 flags totaling 35 yards. Bailey completed 20 passes for 229 yards and ran for 65. Senior Jared Corya caught 9 balls for 112 yards.
Batesville sets its sights on the 2019 home opener, Friday, 7 p.m., vs. Milan.