Braves top Salem 35-26, improve to 4-0


By John Regruth

For The Tribune

A short-handed Browns-town Central football team took on a rusty Salem squad coming back from a two-week quarantine period.

Despite the less-than-ideal circumstances, the two teams performed admirably on Friday night, with Brownstown needing a strong fourth-quarter defensive effort to secure a 35-26 victory.

The Braves’ Ethan Fultz (thumb injury) and Kiernan Tiemeyer (out due to a targeting penalty last week) were unavailable, forcing head coach Reed May to insert sophomore sub Lane Zike at slotback and move Adam Wayt and Eli Wischmeier around the linebacker position.

Zike finished the game with 93 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, while Wischmeier finished with six tackles, including one for loss.

“We always tell our kids, ‘Don’t make excuses, just step up,’” May said. “They performed very well tonight, I’m proud of all of them.”

Salem’s football team, meanwhile, was shut down for two weeks due to COVID issues and though the season is in Week 4 the Lions entered Friday’s contest with just a single game played.

“Going into the season, we knew Salem was loaded,” May said. “But without any film from the last two weeks, we based our game-planning on last year’s game.

“With us and Salem, you know what each team does well.”

The understandable rust was evident early for Salem. Brownstown maintained control of the ball for 13 of the game’s first 16 minutes, running 27 plays to just five by Lions’ offense.

Thanks to a 10-yard Jake Pauley run and a one-yard Carson Darlage plunge, the Braves (4-0) held a 14-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

Salem (1-1) would rebound from that slow start by using special teams as a spark. Junior Trevon Smedley returned a Cooper Wolka kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, suddenly tightening the game, 14-7.

“Our kickoff coverage is terrible,” May lamented. “We have to figure something out there.”

Senior cornerback Thad Goecker provided BC with a spark of his own when he intercepted a Kaleb Tucker pass and returned it 12 yards to Salem’s 31 yard line. The Braves converted that turnover into a touchdown moments later when Darlage scored on a 5-yard run, restoring BC’s 14-point lead at 21-7 with 3:10 left in the first half.

Darlage ran the ball 19 times for 107 yards, his second straight 100-yard game. He added three more rushing touchdowns and now has eight on the season.

“When we decide to move Carson to quarterback, we thought, with his size, he could run up the middle for us,” May said. “He showed that again tonight.”

For the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Darlage, the attention for his good performances should be focused elsewhere.

“All the credit to the line,” the junior said, simply. “I couldn’t run without them.”

Twice in the second half, Salem closed to within a couple of points of Brownstown. But a 13-yard TD run by Zike in third quarter and an 11-yard scoring run by Darlage with 3:39 left in the fourth quarter kept the Braves just far enough ahead.

Wyatt Steward’s quarterback sack on Salem’s final drive helped the Braves seal the win.

Friday’s victory avenged a rare loss to the Lions. BC had been on an 18-game win streak against Salem before dropping a 14-12 contest last season.

“We were really fired up to play Salem after last season,” Darlage admitted.

Brownstown is now 30-4 against Salem during May’s 29 seasons.

Now sitting on a 4-0 record, May let on that he didn’t expect to be perfect this far into the year.

“After our (summer) Hanover camp, we didn’t look too good,” May said. “Now, hopefully we can play well next week and go into the Seymour game on a high.”

Brownstown’s players commemorated the 20th anniversary of 9/11 during the game by wearing helmet stickers that were designed by former assistant coach Jerry Brown.

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