By John Regruth
For The Tribune
Brownstown Central’s football team first shocked, then awed and then finally demoralized Southridge in the Class 3A Sectional 31 championship on Friday night.
The Braves (11-1) scored touchdowns on seven of their first eight possessions during the first three quarters of the game, opening up a stunning 43-point lead en route to a comfortable 50-14 victory.
Friday’s win gave Brownstown its second consecutive sectional title and third crown in the last four years. In 19 chances, the Braves have now won 12 sectional titles.
Brownstown advances to next week’s regional to take on Evansville Memorial, a 63-35 winner against Sullivan in the Sectional 32 title game. The Braves, who have never played Memorial, will host the regional contest.
“I was very surprised,” Brownstown head coach Reed May said of Friday’s dominant victory against Southridge. “I felt like we had a good game plan defensively. Offensively, you’re never sure because you never really know what to expect from the other team’s defense.
“Defensively, our kids did a great job. They played their responsibilities very well. (Southridge) has been averaging 35 points, so we did a great job defensively. Offensively, our offensive line did a great job. You’re not going to get very far without a great line, and our line is playing very well right now.”
Southridge opened Friday’s game with the ball, but in what would become a pattern, couldn’t budge Brownstown’s defense. The Raiders (10-2) handed the ball back to BC after gaining just two yards.
Two plays later, Brownstown’s Gavin Bane broke away for a 43-yard touchdown run, his first of three TDs on the night.
Bane started a high-speed parade to Southridge’s end zone. After that first score, quarterback Kyle Kramer ran for a one-yard score, Bane scored on a 12-yard shovel pass from Kramer, Lance Goecker ran in from two yards and Bane added another 47-yard TD run — all in the first half.
Kramer then added two more touchdown runs in the second half, one from 12 yards out and another covering 33 yards.
Brownstown’s offense generated 517 total yards, 386 on the ground and 131 in the air.
Bane led on the ground with 151 yards on just seven carries and 78 receiving yards on three catches. Bane finished with 22 points, tying the BC career scoring record of 418 points.
Bane also broke Brownstown’s single-season rushing TD record. The senior now has 25, topping the previous mark of 24 held by Levi Nehrt.
Kramer ended with 70 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and 131 aerial yards on 5-for-7 passing, including the TD throw to Bane.
“We jumped on them early and played the way we’re capable,” Kramer said. “It was all-around a great game. (Winning a sectional title) means a lot to us. We put in a lot of hard work during the season. This makes it all worth it.”
Led by Gus Hogan, Cameron Eggersman and Lendon Underwood, the Braves’ defense smothered the Southridge offense.
Brownstown forced five punts and two turnovers on downs in the Raiders’ first eight possessions. Southridge managed just 129 yards on 40 plays before the Braves’ reserves entered the game early in the fourth quarter.
Underwood and Hogan led with 10 tackles each. Underwood added 1.5 sacks. Devin Stuckwisch also contributed a sack. Eggersman had six tackles and blocked a Southridge punt.
“When you stop a team like (Southridge), you feel pride,” Underwood said. “(Being sectional champs) is a pretty amazing feeling. Feels like you’re on top of the world.”
Senior lineman Clark Hauer said getting started quickly on both sides of the ball helped the Braves settle down.
“Defensively, we demoralized them,” Hauer said. “We stopped them early, then once we started scoring points, it gave us a cushion.”
Hauer, who like his fellow seniors has enjoyed three sectional titles during his four-season career, tried to put the accomplishment in perspective.
“It definitely makes you feel proud,” Hauer said. “The dedication to stick with it through four years, makes you proud and proud of the coaches.”
Brownstown now turns its attention to its next regional opportunity. In 11 previous regionals, Brownstown holds a 2-9 record. The two victories came in 2004 and 2008.
The Braves hope to break a three-game regional losing streak, after falling to Evansville Mater Dei in 2010 and twice to Gibson Southern in 2013 and 2015.
“It’s definitely going to be exciting,” Hauer said. “I’m hoping for a big crowd. (Winning a regional) is one thing we haven’t been able to do yet.”
May’s thoughts on the regional were more tactical.
“The good thing is, we’re playing at home,” he said. “In 12 regional games, only three have been home games. It’s a strange coincidence.”