This Jackson Bowl will be remembered



As sweat matted their hair, they shared hugs, young men who fought with grit and determination to prevail. They were so exhausted.

As Brownstown Central’s football players milled about on their home field inside Blevins Memorial Stadium, their minds raced and finally paused. They were the winners of the 2020 Jackson Bowl. Yes, they were.

“Straight to bed,” said Braves runner Lucas Hines of his immediate future. He had no energy left for celebration. “That will go down in the record books. That was too close for comfort.”

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Somehow, the clock ran out when the Braves had a grip, a tenuous one, but a very real one, on the larger score. The 43 in the 43-42 final had their names on it.

“It’s the greatest game I’ve ever been part of,” said linebacker Jake Pauley.

Still a high school junior, Pauley was too young to realize it was probably going to be the greatest football game he would ever be part of, no matter how long he plays.

For that matter, he might not see a college or pro game to match Friday night’s survival exercise against Seymour.

The rivalry game between two schools 10 miles apart was as fierce and flamboyant as the COVID-19, half-inside-the-stadium and half-outside-the-fencing crowd could have ordered off the menu.

Especially the final minute of the final quarter when each cheering interest believed, at least briefly, they had it won. This football game should be remembered as “The Miracle on Turf.”

Not for any upset value, but for drama and the sheer impossible sequence of events. Three touchdowns were scored in the last 37 seconds of the 12-minute fourth quarter, each time providing a fresh leader.

The chapters of improbable developments unfolded in the page-turner of a novel with Seymour ahead 35-28 just 3:28 to go and Brownstown seemingly a ZIP code removed from the end zone with the ball on its own 9-yard-line.

Coach Reed May flipped through the playbook, trusted quarterback Kiernan Tiemeyer to execute and 91 yards later, back Hines (141 yards rushing) collected his third TD of the night on a 2-yard run. When he also caught a two-point conversion from Tiemeyer, Brownstown led 36-35.

Many witnesses thought Brownstown had just tied the bow on the package.

“I thought we did, too,” Pauley said.

Game over? Heck no. Game just starting.

Seymour’s Chandler Drummond took the kickoff, broke into the open and ran back to the Brownstown 20. A couple of penalties later, Owl quarterback Cody Ruble hit running back Colin Greathouse for a 15-yard touchdown pass, and Seymour led with 17 seconds remaining.

That gave the ball back to Brownstown, trailing 42-36, and facing yet another mission impossible.

Tiemeyer, who is both a shifty runner and the guiding focal point of the Braves’ running offense, turned into the second coming of Peyton Manning, throwing for 151 yards. His showing was highlighted by a 53-yard touchdown heave to Brandon Reynolds with 2.7 seconds on the clock.

Game tied. Cooper Wolka, Brownstown’s place kicker, was under some pressure, although if he missed, overtime would have followed.

“I tried to keep my mind blank,” Wolka said. “But I kept it in the back of my head it was tied. I never thought we would have come back. The last minute was scary.”

Brownstown came into the Jackson Bowl, an intermission from the regular-season conference play, leading the series 7-6 since it was resumed in 2007 after a 36-year break. The Braves were 3-1 and the Owls 3-2, though winners of three straight. At times, the clubs were offensive juggernauts but had also played reliable defense recently.

“I didn’t think it was going to be close,” said Brownstown lineman Treyton Ream. He did not think 85 points would be scored, either. “No, no. I couldn’t have imagined that.”

Seymour coach Tyson Moore imagined just about anything and everything in the final minute, always believing the teams had time to score again.

“I knew it was far from over,” he said. “Every possible scenario runs through your mind. As a coach, you know if it is possible for us to score, it’s possible for them to score.”

Eventually, the clock caught up to everyone. For Seymour, it was tough to swallow there was no time for another comeback.

“I’ve never seen a game that changed like that,” Ruble said. “I’m sure it was fun to watch. It was a roller coaster.”

When Moore gathered his squad in the locker room he spoke only briefly.

“Immediately after the game, I addressed how much it hurt,” Moore said. “You feel like you got punched in the gut. But we cannot allow this game to cost us the three games left on the regular-season schedule.”

This was not a championship game. Seymour must play New Albany on Friday, and the Owls’ heads cannot be stuck in the past.

Yet some players realized they also had been part of something special, a game that will be long remembered.

“It was play after play,” said Drummond, whose own father told him later he thought the Owls had lost when Brownstown went up 36-35. “I was kind of hoping it went to overtime.”

That would have fed all fans’ appetites for more football on a night when two teams showed just how marvelous the sport can be at its best.

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