‘He’s our leader’: Darlage impacting both sides of ball for 4-2 Braves

Brownstown Centdral football head coach Reed May told his team Friday that it was the best game they’ve played so far this season.

Senior Carson Darlage agreed with his head coach, but he was conflicted. The competitor that Darlage is didn’t want to correlate “best game” with a loss.

But the fact of the matter is, even though the Braves have won four games this season, some of those have been underwhelming performances. The coaches and players will be the first to tell you it wasn’t their best football. Friday night’s game against Seymour was the best team the Braves lined up across from this season, and they were more than up for the fight against their cross-county rival.

The Owls prevailed 28-24, but it came down to the wire. The Braves led 10-7 at halftime, then 17-14 with 2:29 left in the third quarter and then 24-21 with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter.

Every time Seymour scored, Brownstown had an answer. Until the Owls scored with 1:21 left to regain the lead, the clock wasn’t on the Braves’ side on their final possession.

Their heads hung low, but even with a much younger team than they had a year ago and multiple key players out due to injuries, Darlage understood the message from May after the game.

“I think we played pretty well overall,” Darlage said. “Our line stepped up. We had some guys that were out. Everybody stepped up to play.”

The senior quarterback led all rushers in the game with 21 carries for 121 yards. He had a 5-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter to get Brownstown on the board.

Darlage now has 700 rushing yards this season along with seven rushing touchdowns.

“I like contact,” Darlage said. “A lot of people can tell when I run the ball, I like to run with power. I’m not super fast, but I can hit people and run.”

As good of a rusher as Darlage is, ask anyone about his arm, and they’ll tell you he can throw. The passing game isn’t prominently featured in Brownstown’s offense, but the few times the Braves went into that part of the playbook against the Owls, they found some success.

Brownstown’s fourth-quarter touchdown with 3 minutes left came off of a pass from Darlage to Gregory Hutcheson.

“We’ve put in a couple more plays,” Darlage said. “We changed some things up with our passing game, and I think it’s going to help us.”

Darlage is the engine that makes the Braves’ offense go. It’s an offense that looks a lot different than it did a year ago.

Last season, Darlage quarterbacked the Braves to an undefeated regular season and an 11-1 overall record.

This year, Darlage was the only returner on the offensive side of the ball.

“It has been a little bit different,” he said. “Last year, I had every returning lineman coming back. This year, I had none. Everybody has gotten along good, everyone is learning and I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

It’s not just the offense for Darlage this year, either. Due to injuries on both sides of the ball, May and the coaching staff have inserted Darlage into the defensive rotation, as well.

A couple of weeks ago, Darlage played defensive back for the first time. On Friday night against Seymour, No. 11 was on the field almost every snap for the Braves.

“It has been cool, honestly,” he said. “I like playing defense, too. It’s something different, and I just like playing the game of football.”

It hasn’t been easy for the Braves this season. Injuries, youth and players in different positions have all been adjustments the team has had to deal with each week.

Darlage has had to stay patient, and he has welcomed that responsibility.

“I try to really be understanding,” he said. “Everybody is going to make mistakes, even returning players. I make mistakes. Everybody does. Just letting them know what they did wrong, how to fix it, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

That’s the type of leadership May and the coaching staff hope from their seniors, and that’s what they’ve gotten out of Darlage this season.

“He’s our leader. He carries us on our back,” May said of Darlage. “When we need a first down, he somehow gets us a first down. He’s a competitor. He plays three sports for us (football, basketball, baseball), and he’s a competitor in all those sports. He hates to lose, and he can just put us on his back and carry us.”

Brownstown is in the middle of a tough stretch in its schedule. Coming off of the Jackson Bowl, the Braves are going to a tough Indian Creek team this Friday.

Darlage knows even though losing last week will leave a bad taste in his mouth, playing up to Seymour’s level can provide confidence for this young Braves team as they continue to test themselves against strong competition to get prepared for the postseason.

“I think it helps us a lot,” Darlage said. “If we don’t play competition now, we’re going to be really woke up in sectional, and we wouldn’t be ready to go. If we play really good teams now, hopefully, we’re prepared to play those good teams in sectional, as well.”