For The Tribune
Brownstown Central’s football team wore them down on offense, frustrated them on defense and dominated them on the scoreboard during a nearly perfect performance that gave the Braves a stirring 30-7 victory against Evansville Memorial in Friday’s Class 3A regional.
The win handed Brownstown its third-ever regional title.
The Braves (12-1) earned a spot in next week Semistate to take on Lawrenceburg, a 37-20 winner over Danville. The Tigers (12-1) will host Brownstown.
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“In the past, we were in a situation where we felt like we were overmatched,” BC head coach Reed May said of his team’s previous 2-9 record in regionals, mostly against teams from Evansville. “This time, our kids were confident all week. With our (shotgun Wing-T) offense, we weren’t too sure how we’d be this late in the tournament. But Memorial has been playing spread offenses all season and now they had to deal with what we do. It’s not easy to prepare for us.”
Memorial (9-4) appeared flummoxed by Brownstown’s fakes and misdirection all evening. Of 61 offensive plays, the Braves ran 57 times and gained 299 yards. More importantly, the Braves controlled the ball for 34 of the game’s 48 minutes, idling Memorial’s potent offense.
“I was really surprised,” Braves quarterback Kyle Kramer said. “Coach May said this would probably be the best defense we’ve played all year. It was great to see what our offense is capable of.”
Kramer was an enigma for Memorial’s defense throughout the game. The senior finished with a game-high 120 yards on 19 carries, including breaking through the Memorial line for a 45-yard touchdown run.
Under Kramer’s guidance, the Braves continually extended drives by converting eight of 15 third and fourth downs. Three of Brownstown’s scoring drives were marvels of ball-control offense.
The Braves’ first possession covered 66 yards in 14 plays and drained 7:52 from the game clock. Gavin Bane capped that drive with a 10-yard TD run.
In the second quarter, Braves traveled 83 yards on 10 plays and removed another 5:13 from the clock. Kramer’s 45-yard run closed this possession and gave Brownstown a 14-0 lead.
To start the second half, the Braves ran another 5:41 off the clock while moving the ball 90 yards on 11 plays. Gus Hogan’s one-yard run ended the drive and, effectively, the game by giving Brownstown a 30-0 lead.
For good measure, the Braves reminded Memorial that quick-strike scoring is also a BC trademark when Kramer found Bane for a 44-yard TD pass, creating a one-play, 10-second scoring possession.
All told, the Braves finished with 351 total yards. Bane joined Kramer with a 100-yard rushing game, ending with 107 yards on 14 carries. And, not to be forgotten, Bane scored 12 points and set a new BC career scoring record. The senior now has 430 career points, breaking Levi Nehrt’s previous mark of 418.
Besides Bane and Kramer, Brownstown got tough yardage from Devin Stuckwisch (9 carries, 30 yards), Hogan (5-24) and Lance Goecker (5-17).
Of course, offense was just half of the story. The Braves’ defense turned in its best performance of the season, forcing two turnovers, three punts and three turnovers-on-downs that limited Memorial’s 37-point-per-game offense to a season-low seven points.
Especially impressive was Brownstown Central’s defensive backfield, which knocked down or defended pass after pass thrown by Memorial quarterback Michael Lindauer.
“We watched countless hours of film on their offense. We basically could run their offense by the end of the week,” BC senior defensive back Carson Lambring said. “The coaches got us really prepared for the game.”
One week after Lindauer threw for 245 yards and ran for 90 yards, he was limited to 212 passing yards and just seven rushing yards on Friday night.
“I think our defensive backs are underestimated,” May said. “Of course, to defend the pass well, you need to have pressure on the quarterback, which we got. I thought our defensive scheme confused Memorial.”
Lambring, Bane, Hogan and Andrew Murphy combined to break up nine downfield passes. Murphy highlighted his night by finishing with a game-high 10 tackles.
Bane, Goecker, Lendon Underwood and Devin Stuckwisch each contributed a tackle for loss, combining to push Memorial backward 13 yards.
Perhaps most important in Brownstown’s defensive effort were the two first-half fumbles forced from Memorial’s hands. Underwood recovered the first fumble, setting up the Kramer-to-Bane touchdown pass.
Lambring forced the second fumble, which Goecker recovered just before halftime.
Brownstown now turns its attention to Lawrenceburg and the Semistate. The Braves lost to Tri-West, 55-28, in the 2004 Semistate, while Heritage Christian ended Braves’ state title hopes, 24-16, in the 2008 Semistate.
“The two teams that beat us in those semistates went on to be state champions, so they were two really good football teams,” May said. “We had two really good teams, too, and this year’s team is comparable to them. This is a highly intelligent team, which really helps us defensively.”
For Lambring, he now gets to experience what his brother, Chandler, experienced in 2004.
“It’s feels great to be like my brother,” Lambring said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime feeling. We’re really clicking right now. We’re having fun on the field. It’s exciting. We want to keep winning.”
Kramer said he thinks the Braves will be ready for the Semistate.
“We feel really confident about our next game,” Kramer said. “It’s amazing. It’s a great feeling. Not a lot of teams in our program have gotten this chance.”