Braves fall to top-ranked Tigers 28-17

FAIRLAND — Two touchdowns in a 16-second span with less than two minutes left in the game gave Triton Central an improbably comfortable 28-17 victory over Brownstown Central in the Class 2A Sectional 39 semifinal on Friday night.

For the first 46 of the game’s 48 minutes, the Nos. 1 and 3 teams in Class 2A engaged in a classic. The first half featured a scoreless defensive duel, which then gave way to a back-and-forth offensive free-for-all.

No. 3 Brownstown (9-2) had the No. 1 Tigers (10-1) on the ropes following a well-executed 30-yard field goal by senior placekicker Bryce Peak that pushed the Braves in front 17-14 with 2:46 left in the game.

BC head coach Reed May felt a tremor, however.

“We left them too much time,” the 31-year coach said.

May’s premonition proved correct. Triton Central marched to Brownstown’s 17 with 90 seconds to go. The Braves’ Chick Tiemeyer and Joe Roberts then chased down TC quarterback Jace Stuckey and sacked him for a seven-yard loss at the 24 with 1:12 left on the clock.

But Stuckey found an escape, as he had throughout the game. On the next play, the senior QB lofted a perfect 24-yard touchdown pass to Mason Compton, giving TC a 21-17 lead with just 1:06 remaining.

Forced to go the length of the field with a minute left, Brownstown turned to its pass game, which had been a weapon earlier in the contest.

On BC quarterback Micah Sheffer’s first attempt, however, his pass appeared to get tipped at the line of scrimmage and was picked off by TC’s Sam Kemper, who equivocated between taking a knee and racing for a touchdown.

He ultimately chose to score, returning his interception 18 yards for a TD with 50 seconds on the clock and sealing the win for Triton.

“Peak did a great job on the field goal, but unfortunately, they got us,” May said. “There’s nothing else to say.

Triton’s Stuckey, an Eastern Michigan commit, was contained for much of the game by Brownstown’s defense, but he still found a way to lift the Tigers. Stuckey ended with 196 yards and two touchdowns on efficient 17-for-23 passing. He added four first downs and 31 yards on the ground.

“He’s a big-time player,” May said. “He’s got great speed, a great arm. He’s the whole package. Our defense did a great job against him, but eventually, he’s going to make some plays.”

First the first time all season, Brownstown’s offense was shut out in the first half. In fact, they only had back-to-back scoreless quarters once during the year (against Seymour).

At halftime, the Braves made solid adjustments and saw their offense come to life.

On the first drive of the second half, BC turned to Greg Hutcheson, who carried the ball six times for 39 yards, spurring an impressive 16-play, 81-yard scoring drive that ate seven minutes off the clock.

Keetan Burcham-Jones capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown run that broke the scoreless tie and gave Brownstown a 7-0 lead.

The Braves followed up with a little trickery during their next possession. After using the double-handoff in their run game, they flummoxed Triton Central with a double-handoff flea flicker that ended with a pretty 32-yard Sheffer-to-Hudson Fritz TD pass.

Unfortunately for BC, each score was answered quickly by Triton Central’s equally potent offense.

Fritz, who was a key to last week’s victory over Indianapolis Scecina, had his best game of the season on Friday, ending with six catches for 103 yards and a TD before getting hurt on the game’s second-to-last play.

“He’s a senior who played a great game,” May said of Fritz. “In fact, tonight was a credit to all of our seniors. We’re going to miss them. Our motto was ‘Whatever it takes,’ and they lived up to that. We challenged them all offseason, and they responded.”

Sheffer finished with 119 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 9-for-19 passes.

BC’s run game with held 115 yards under its season average by a tough TC defense, gaining 196 yards on 50 carries.

Lane Zike led with 48 yards on 14 attempts, while Hutcheson had 42 yards on nine tries.

Roberts and Owen Wischmeier led Brownstown’s defense with eight tackles each. Roberts had 1.5 sacks for 17 yards in losses. Isiaah Engle chipped in a key tackle for loss in the first half.

With the victory, the Tigers advance to the sectional final, where they figure to be heavy favorites against Eastern (Pekin). The Musketeers (5-6) beat Switzerland County 44-0 in the other Sectional 39 semifinal.

Friday’s defeat, meanwhile, is just the third for Brownstown in 24 trips to the sectional semifinal round of the postseason tournament. The Braves entered with a remarkable 21-2 record under May in semifinal games, the losses coming in 2014 (Charlestown, 27-16) and last year (Triton Central, 24-19).

Brownstown had beaten Triton Central in sectional semis five previous times (1994, 1995, 1999, 2000 and 2010) but now finds itself on the unfortunate end of a two-game losing streak to the Tigers.

Brownstown Central (9-2);0;0;7;10;—;17

Triton Central (10-1);0;0;7;21;—;28

Third quarter

BC-Keetan Burcham-Jones 3 run (Bryce Peak kick), 4:59

TC-Brayden Wilkins 27 pass from Jace Stuckey (Levi Dewey kick), 2:21

Fourth quarter

BC-Hudson Fritz 32 pass from Micah Sheffer (Peak kick), 11:22

TC-Wilkins 13 run (Dewey kick), 7:54

BC-Peak 30 field goal, 2:46

TC-Mason Compton 24 pass from Stuckey (Dewey kick), 1:06

TC-Sam Kemper 18 interception return (Dewey kick), :50


Rushing: Lane Zike 14-48, Greg Hutcheson 8-41, Sheffer 7-31, Preston Garrison 7-30, Burcham-Jones 8-30, Chick Tiemeyer 3-10, Isiaah Engle 2-6, Team 50-196.

Passing: Brownstown-Sheffer 9 for 19, 119 yards, 1 touchdowns, 1 interception.

Receiving: Brownstown-Fritz 6-103, Garrison 1-7, Grayson Cassidy 1-5, Zike 1-4.