For The Tribune
Charlestown landed the first punch, but Brownstown Central’s football team dominated the fight Friday night, shutting down a potent Pirate offense during a convincing 44-19 victory.
The win moves the Braves (9-2) into next week’s Class 3A Sectional 31 championship game, where Southridge awaits.
The Raiders (8-3) defeated Corydon Central 44-12 in the other Sectional 31 semifinal.
Last year, Charlestown (8-3) ended Brownstown’s season in the semifinals.
After three plays Friday, it appeared the Pirates might repeat their feat.
Taking the game’s opening kickoff, Charlestown handed the ball off on three consecutive snaps to junior running back Antonyo Gaddie, who gained 52 yards and scored a touchdown in just 60 seconds.
Stunned but still standing, Brownstown quickly regained its composure and took control of the game.
“On that first drive, I don’t know what happened,” Brownstown Central head coach Reed May said. “It was boom, boom, boom, touchdown. I thought, ‘Holy (cow).’”
Brownstown responded to the punch in the nose by scoring on an 8-yard Ryan Benter run and on a pick-six interception return by senior John McKinney.
The Braves’ defense stopped Charlestown’s next four drives and frustrated Gaddie the rest of the night. After opening with 52 yards on three carries, Gaddie gained just 50 yards on his next 17 carries.
The Pirates entered Friday’s game averaging 41 points during a six-game winning streak, but managed less than half of that against the Braves.
“Brownstown’s defense did a good job,” Charlestown head coach Jason Hawkins said. “They put a lot of kids in the box and forced us to throw the ball.”
Brownstown’s offense also did its job. The Braves ran for 402 yards, averaging 7.2 yards per carry throughout the game.
“We’ve got a lot of weapons,” May said. “Our slots ran the ball very well. At halftime, our coaches were saying, ‘Just run the ball the entire second half.’”
The Braves’ running attack generated three runners with 88 or more yards, led by junior Gavin Bane’s 150 yards on 16 attempts.
Bane, who was held scoreless for the first time this season in last week’s sectional opener vs. Salem, scored 18 points Friday against Charlestown, scoring two TDs and three two-point conversions.
Also running well for the Braves were quarterback Kyle Kramer, who finished with 94 yards on 17 carries, and McKinney, who ended with 88 yards on 11 carries.
After Gaddie’s opening touchdown, Brownstown took a 16-7 lead on Benter’s touchdown run and McKinney’s 44-yard interception return. A seven-yard run by Bane increased the lead to 22-7 with 3:40 left in the half.
Kramer broke free for a 30-yard TD run early in the third to push BC ahead by 17 points before Gaddie caught a 14-yard pass from Brendan Lawler to cut the lead to 30-19.
That’s as close as Charlestown would get. A two-yard Kramer touchdown run and a 35-yard scoring run by Bane gave BC an insurmountable 44-19 advantage.
For insurance, Matt Nierman intercepted Lawler in Braves’ end zone with 4:58 left in the game to seal Brownstown’s victory.
“I was covering my man and his route was done,” Nierman said. “He cut back and the quarterback threw it up. I just read my keys. I couldn’t believe I caught it.”
BC’s defense got contributions all over the field. Besides the two interceptions, Benter recovered a second-half fumble. Charlestown’s Lawler was forced to run for his life throughout the second half, with Cameron Eggersman recording an eight-yard sack.
Cam Shoemaker, Clay Wilkerson and Justin Donnells combined for four tackles for loss. Bane and Jacob Brewer led BC with seven tackles each.
“It started up front,” Nierman said of the Braves’ winning defensive effort. “The big men controlled the game.”