One to go: Braves slam Lions in Class 3A Sectional 31 semis

SALEM

An exceptional first-half effort on both sides of the ball allowed Brownstown Central’s football team to thoroughly dismantle Salem, 56-15, in Friday night’s Class 3A Sectional 31 semifinal.

Salem entered Friday’s contest red hot, with a 5-1 record in its previous six games and a surprise upset last week against Charlestown. The Lions (6-5) hoped to play Purdue to Brownstown Central’s Ohio State.

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The Braves (10-1) squashed the Lions’ shock-the-world dreams from the start, however.

BC’s defense forced two punts and a turnover on downs on Salem’s three first-quarter possessions. The Braves’ offense, meanwhile, scored touchdowns on its first two drives and on six of seven possessions, dumping 42 points on the Lions by halftime.

“I was surprised (by the result),” Brownstown head coach Reed May said. “(Salem) threw the ball really well against Charlestown, but we had a good defensive game plan coming in.”

On the game’s first play, linebacker Matthew Bell nearly intercepted Salem quarterback Brandon Corbin’s pass, setting a tone that lasted until the starters were pulled in the fourth quarter.

BC limited Corbin to 10-for-25 passing and 165 yards, 57 of which came on a fourth-quarter touchdown throw.

Friday’s victory advances Brownstown to next week’s sectional championship for the 20th time in May’s 26 seasons as head coach.

“That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of because of what it says about our program,” May said. “Twenty times in 26 years is hard to do. I’m proud of our community. Our kids work hard.”

In their previous 19 finals appearances, the Braves took home the trophy 12 times, most recently in 2016 following a 50-14 win over Southridge.

BC will host Batesville in the sectional final. The Bulldogs (9-2) defeated Lawrenceburg, 28-22, in the other Sectional 31 semifinal matchup.

In its 54-season history, Brownstown Central’s football team has never played Batesville.

Similar to last week’s sectional-opening victory over Corydon, Brownstown generated huge plays with its running game. The Braves got touchdown runs of 81, 63, 54, 47 and 36 yards, not to mention a 70-yard Caleb Bollinger run that was stopped just short of the end zone.

“For some reason, (Salem) changed their defense,” May said. “When we would run and break through the line, their defensive backs were no where to be found.”

The Braves ran for 375 yards on just 19 carries in the first half and finished the game with 470 rushing yards.

Three BC backs enjoyed 100-yard games, led by Bollinger with 152 yards on 10 carries.

Hayden Kinsler added 122 yard on just four attempts, while Sam Huber ended with 105 yards on three carries.

Derek Thompson got the track meet started when he ran 63 yards for a touchdown on Brownstown’s second snap of the night.

Kinsler stepped up next, running for a 36-yard score and an 81-yard TD that gave the Braves a 21-0 lead with 9:10 left in the second quarter.

Grant Stuckwisch (six yards), Huber (54 yards) and Bollinger (six yards) followed with second quarter TDs that ballooned the lead to 42-0 at the half.

Bollinger immediately got the Braves going in the second half with a three-yard touchdown run. Huber capped the Braves’ scoring when his halfback diveresulted in a 47-yard scoring run.

Defensively, Brownstown enjoyed the return of Bell and Braeden Walker, who missed recent games due to injury. Bell led the Braves with nine tackles, one tackle for loss and two pass breakups.

Walker had four tackles and a key quarterback sack that helped stall Salem’s best first-half drive.

Robbie Branaman also had a sack, while Dustin Justice recovered a fumble. Thompson, Bollinger and Luke Shelton added tackles for loss