The Brownstown Central football team has been putting in work all summer.
After moratorium week in July, the Braves went to a camp at Hanover, where they got to compete against schools like Southridge, Providence, Eastern and South Spencer. Then, Brownstown had its football camps that concluded with a 7-on-7 challenge against Bedford North Lawrence and Franklin.
The latest installment of offseason competition came this past Friday when Brownstown held its red-black scrimmage at Blevins Stadium. During each one of these checkpoints during the summer, Brownstown wanted to be better than it was at the previous one, and head coach Reed May believes the Braves did that on Friday.
“Our goal every time we got out there is to get better every day,” May said. “At the red and black scrimmage we wanted to see some improvement, which we did. Now, our goal is just to get better for the Jennings County scrimmage and take it week by week.”
During the red-black scrimmage, both varsity and junior varsity each got 40 plays on the field. Score was not kept as it was an opportunity to focus on themselves and get better.
It’s going to be a young team for the Braves out there this fall. After having 16 seniors last year that all contributed on the field, Brownstown has just one offensive starter returning and five defensive starters returning.
On offense, it’s senior quarterback Carson Darlage. Darlage didn’t run the ball a whole lot on Friday, and he won’t carry the ball a ton against Jennings County this Friday, but that won’t be the case when the season starts.
“He’s a pretty good quarterback,” May said. “It’s extremely important (to have him back). In our offense, our quarterback runs the ball quite a bit. Once the season progresses, he will be one of our main ball carriers. He’s a vital part. It’s a vital part having the quarterback back, but unfortunately the other 10 guys are new. He’s gonna have to have some patience, too, as a quarterback. Those other guys will come around; it’ll just take a little bit of time.”
The rushing attack is a huge part of Brownstown’s success, which means the blocking up front is a big key to that. All five offensive lineman last year were seniors, so it’s a new group out there this fall.
“They’re getting better,” May said. “At camp, they struggled a little bit. They played a lot better in the red and black scrimmage. They got the strength to be able to play, it’s just a matter of getting confidence.”
On defense, the Braves return three on the line — Keetan Burcham-Jones, Ryan Branaman and Bryce Neal. May knows those three are capable of playing on the offensive line as well, but ideally they’d want to keep those guys fresh for defense.
“We’re better at our level when we have five offensive lineman starters and four defensive lineman starters, so those nine guys don’t play both sides,” May said. “Your lineman you like to keep fresh. We have that philosophy going into the Jennings County scrimmage, but if need be, they’re good offensive lineman.”
Ethan Fultz and Adam Wayt return as linebackers while the secondary will be new.
“We’re gonna be inexperienced back there, but we feel athletically we can keep up,” May said.
It may sound like the Braves lost a lot, which they did, but as good as the varsity team was last year finishing 11-1 with an undefeated regular season, the junior varsity team only had one loss all year long as well.
So, Brownstown knows it has some talent moving up to varsity this fall. In addition to the JV players from last year, May believes the freshmen class has potential, and some of them are even on the second unit for varsity right now.
“Our JV did fairly well last year, so we knew quite a few of the JV players could step in,” May said. “A lot of it is varsity experience. I tell the kids, strength-wise and speed-wise, they’re ready to play varsity football. Unfortunately, a lot of times mentally they aren’t ready to play, either confidence-wise or knowing where to be.”
That’s going to be the No. 1 priority is making sure the younger players feel as if they belong on the field. The red-black scrimmage was a step in the right direction, and this Friday the Braves plan to take another step.
Jennings County has a first-year head coach in T.J. Newton, who asked May, heading into year 30 at BCHS, which way he likes to format his scrimmages. May prefers schedule format A, which includes kicking. The return men aren’t live, but the blocking is. May prefers that so everyone on special teams can go out there and line up correctly before doing it in a game situation.
The Braves’ scrimmage with the Panthers will start at 7 p.m. Friday at Blevins Stadium. The message remains the same as it always is for BCHS.
“We know going into it, we’re a very young football team, so we just want to get better every day,” May said.