Interception returns for touchdowns by Matthew Bell and Braden Neal sparked a 28-point second-quarter surge that led to a comfortable 48-8 victory for Brownstown Central’s football team over Eastern (Pekin) on Friday night.
Bell and Neal’s big plays countered the effects of two first-half BC turnovers deep in Eastern territory that contributed to an uncharacteristically sluggish offensive start for the Braves.
Brownstown saw promising first-half drives end after fumbles on Eastern’s 9- and 22-yard lines, limiting BC to a 7-0 lead 16 minutes into the game.
“Offensively, we were not very good, not very smooth,” Brownstown head coach Reed May said. “We missed some blocks. We had two turnovers. You want to get better every week, which is why I was a little disappointed tonight. Offensively, I didn’t think we got better.”
Bell changed the game’s momentum when he picked off a pass by Eastern quarterback Todd Branaman and returned it 47 yards for a TD with 7:49 left in the first half.
Bell’s play was followed quickly by Sam Huber’s 8-yard scoring run straight up the middle and a 68-yard gallop by Caleb Bollinger down the right sideline.
When, moments later, Neal intercepted a Branaman pass and returned it 27 yards for another touchdown, Brownstown’s seven-point lead had ballooned to 35-0 with 2:08 remaining in the first half.
Friday’s win improved Brownstown’s record to 3-0, marking the sixth straight season in which the Braves have opened with a perfect record through three games.
The first three games aren’t as interesting to May as the next three games, however.
“You want to win every game, so starting 3-0 is important,” May said. “But we’ve got a three-game stretch coming up against Salem, North Harrison and Seymour where we’ll have to be better.”
Friday’s victory was also the Braves’ 12th straight over Eastern. In the two teams’ last seven meetings, Brownstown has outscored Eastern 335-34.
After taking command in the second quarter, Derek Thompson cemented the Braves’ victory with third-quarter touchdown runs of 37 and 59 yards. The junior finished with 137 yards on just three carries.
As a team, BC ended with 339 yards on the ground and 380 total yards.
Bollinger followed Thompson with 83 yards on three carries. In addition to his 68-yard TD run, he added a first-quarter 15-yard scoring run.
BC quarterback Hayden Kinsler finished the night with a modest 41 yards on 3-for-5 passing.
Defensively, Robbie Branaman paced Brownstown with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss, and a hurry on Eastern’s Branaman.
Thompson and Luke Shelton followed with five tackles each.
Due to a running clock for much of the second half and the Braves’ quick-strike offense, the game’s strangest statistic was time of possession. Despite losing by 40 points, Eastern had an overwhelming 40:04-8:56 advantage in time of possession.