Braves battle with No. 4 Triton Central in sectional, fall short 24-19

Brownstown Central’s coaches threw the kitchen sink and several major appliances at Triton Central, but the Braves couldn’t quite catch the Tigers on Friday night.

Triton Central survived the unorthodox plays and BC’s persistence to claim a hard-fought 24-19 victory and earn a spot in next week’s Class 2A Sectional 39 championship game.

The win is Triton’s first-ever over Brownstown. The Braves defeated the Tigers in each of the two teams’ previous six games, all of which were played in the postseason.

However, this year’s Triton Central traveled to Brownstown as the more decorated team. TC is ranked in the top five in all three of the major state-wide polls and entered the postseason as the sectional favorite.

“They are a better team than us, and we knew it,” BC head coach Reed May said. “We tried some plays we thought could work. Some of them did, and some of them didn’t.”

No one can accuse May or coaches of being too conservative or shortening the playbook. In the first quarter alone, the Braves tried an onside on the game’s opening kickoff, faked a punt in their own territory and tried an option pass by slotback Grant Killey.

None of those plays worked as intended, but a double-hand-off flea flicker in the fourth quarter drew a pass interference call that led to a Brownstown touchdown with just 2:12 left on the clock.

The Braves used a timeout and aggressive defense to force Triton Central punt with 1:46 left in the game, giving BC a final shot at an upset.

A 23-yard pass to Jeffrey Barker and a targeting call against Triton Central moved the ball to the Tigers’ 45 yards line with 50 seconds remaining.

But an interception by TC’s Levi Dewey on the next snap ended Brownstown’s chances and its season.

“I’m proud of our kids, especially the seniors,” May said. “I thought we competed. Triton Central is ranked for a reason. We had our chances, but just couldn’t get over the hump at the end of the game.”

Triton Central sports one of the state’s best passing attacks that features top receiver Brad Schultz. But the Tigers used their running attack to win Friday’s game, specifically running back Ray Crawford.

“We were doubling (Schultz) and they saw what we were doing,” May said. “Crawford is a heckuva runner and he’s only a junior.”

Crawford ran the ball 22 times for 145 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a 22-yard touchdown pass.

BC’s defensive strategy limited TC quarterback Jace Stuckey to 7-for-12 passing and 80 yards, about a third of his normal output.

Stuckey gave Triton Central the lead inside of the game’s first two minutes when he plunged into the end zone from two yards out.

Brownstown didn’t answer until late in the second quarter when an 18-yard run by Darlage capped an 11-play, five-minute, 82-yard drive.

Crawford’s TD catch gave Triton a 14-6 lead at halftime. The junior’s third-quarter scoring run extended the lead to 21-6.

But Grant Killey got hot for the Braves, running for a 12-yard run and catching a 16-yard pass that pulled Browntown within five points with two minutes left.

Killey led BC runners with 82 yards on seven carries. Darlage followed with 80 yards on 17 attempts.

Darlage finished with 53 yards on 4-for-10 passing.

Friday’s defeat gave Brownstown its first five-loss season in May’s 30 years as the Braves’ coach.

“It was an unusual season,” May said. “Injuries were a big part of it. But our young guys grew up tonight. Hopefully, we can continue to grow next season.”