The Brownstown Central football team shuffles out of Blevins Memorial Stadium into the night and stampedes over to the practice field.
Temperatures have dropped to near 40 degrees, and the supermoon is the only source of light on this Monday evening.
Braves head coach Reed May has given the team the option to not run hills but the team refuses. They’ve worked hard for this.
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From the parking lot, you can hear the lone whistle and the sound of cleats charging to the summit.
During the regular season, the Braves run six hills each Monday at the conclusion of practice.
Each week, the team advances. They subtract a hill on advancement until one hill remains during the week of the state championship.
With their two hills completed, the players circle to break it down with May.
The chants echo off of the high school.
May yells, “I love,” and the team responds, “Football.”
They’ve done that ritual since their elementary days on the football field.
It’s a tradition to run those hills every Monday night, but this time around, it’s the deepest into November they’ve carried it out in eight years.
Next week, you best believe they plan on running one hill.
Brownstown will make its third semistate appearance Friday night, its first in Class 3A, as the Braves travel east across U.S. 50 to Lawrenceburg High School.
Regional performance bodes well
In last week’s regional bout on their home campus, the Braves muscled their way to a 30-7 victory against Evansville Memorial.The Braves dominated both sides of the ball in the first half to go up 22-0 before running away with the win.
Memorial, a team that routinely played in a spread offense to throw the ball, couldn’t get anything rolling.
Braves defensive coordinator Shane Fallis said the unit’s preparation off of the field has paid off each week.
“I think we did a good job of drilling them with what we’re going to see,” Fallis said. “I think they’ve improved over the course of the year. I think the kids are more settled in positions. I think it’s a combination of them being smart, executing and coming together every week. They’ve become a heck of a defensive unit.”
In the tournament, the Braves’ defense has given up 7.8 points per game — many of which came late in the fourth quarter with junior varsity players on the field.
In the 11 previous four-tournament-game seasons, Brownstown allowed an average of 20 points per game.
Pressure on the line of scrimmage helped the defensive backs make plays.
Offensive and defensive lines coach Clark Smith said the guys in the trenches are playing disciplined football.
“Their technique and just drive off the ball has been so amazing the last few weeks,” Smith said. “I think that can be attributed to the voluntary offseason lineman workouts, where they box and drive the weight sled. They had great attendance, and their work is showing, especially on third and fourth down. They are a great group and a fun group, but when it’s time to get down and dirty, they show up, especially under the lights on Friday.”
Behind the offensive line, the Braves racked up 299 net rushing yards and three touchdowns behind six runners.
Quarterback Kyle Kramer led the charge with 120, while fellow senior Gavin Bane totaled 107.
“Some teams really underestimate us,” Kramer said. “We know we’re really good. We make sure to never underestimate them.”
Kramer also finished 3-of-4 passing for 52 yards, including a 44-yard score to Bane.
The Braves don’t plan on stopping the havoc caused by their offense.
“(Memorial) had no idea who had the ball,” Bane said. “They play a lot of Evansville teams that play a spread offense and throw the ball all of the time. I think they were prepared for some of the jet and counter plays, but once we faked outside and went up the middle, we had them.”
Tigers to prove toughest challenge yet
Like Brownstown Central, Lawrenceburg stands at 12-1 on the season.The Tigers’ lone loss was to Franklin County, 34-20, on Sept. 16.
Since then, they have taken eight straight contests, including a 37-20 win against Danville in the north regional championship.
The Tigers average 47.8 points per game while allowing 16.9.
In the postseason, they’re putting up similar averages, scoring 49 and giving up 16.75.
They’re an old-school, smash-mouth football team that often stacks the line for senior running back Austin Bowling.
Bowling, at 6 feet, 220 pounds, is a bowling ball with 2,814 yards on 326 carries with 49 rushing touchdowns. In the postseason, he has 19 TDs.
Tigers senior QB Reid Strobl also has enjoyed a highly successful season with 1,987 passing yards, completing 92 of 144 attempts, with 26 TDs.
Senior Jordan Houze is the favorite target, with 31 catches, 787 yards and 11 TDs.
“They do a great job of giving you a ton of formations,” May said. “The hard thing defensively for us right now is making sure the plan is simple enough that we don’t get confused by all the formations. I think a team like (Lawrenceburg) doesn’t run a ton of different plays, but they give you so many formations by alignment.
“Our defense is so based on what the other team does. We need to make sure we line up properly. They do a great job of moving people all over the place. They will put nine guys on the line of scrimmage, and you need to prepare for that.”
On defense, junior Mason Parris, an All-State middle linebacker and tight end, had 158 tackles with seven sacks and three interceptions.
Parris also is a reigning state wrestler in the 200-pound division.
“Their nose and middle linebacker are pretty good,” Braves senior center Clark Hauer said. “Hopefully, we can get outside on them. Maybe we will run some misdirection.”
Bane rewriting history every outing
Bane has continued to edit Brownstown Central’s record book throughout the postseason.In Friday’s win over Memorial, he scored two more touchdowns, increasing his career point total to 430, which pushed him to the top of Brownstown’s career scoring list.
Levi Nehrt previously held the record with 418 points.
Of course, with each touchdown and point scored, Bane extends his records.
Regarding single-season records, as of Friday, Bane has 242 points this season (the previous mark was 179), 38 touchdowns (previously 28) and 26 rushing TDs (previously 24).
The next major record Bane is shooting for is career touchdowns. He currently has 66 total TDs, just three shy of the record (69, shared by Nehrt and Jacoby Hines).
Because of the Braves’ prolonged tournament run, two more records are coming into view. Bane currently has 740 receiving yards, 91 yards short of Travis Maupin’s record (831, set in 2004).
Still some distance away is the Braves’ single-season rushing record. Bane has 1,433 rushing yards this season. The single-season record is 1,705, set in 2004 by Brent Burcham.
Always an X-factor, the way the defense responds to Bane will help determine some of the Braves’ offensive play.
“We’re going to get Bane his touches, but if I’m the other team, I’m trying to take away Bane’s touches,” May said. “That’s the nice thing about our offense. Even when we were in just the Wing-T, you have four guys who can carry the ball. You need to have the diversification. They have one back, but they do so many different formations you can get outplayed.”
A chance to make their mark
Friday’s win over Memorial was the 240th in May’s tenure at Brownstown Central.May’s teams account for 67 percent of the 357 wins in the school’s 52-season history.
May’s overall record is 240-47, while the program’s total record is 357-196.
Win or lose, the Braves know they have their community behind them.
“The thing that has been really amazing for me and the kids is how much the community has come together to support us,” May said. “It’s amazing — the fireworks and firetrucks — after the sectional and regional championship games. The parents how they’ve put together meals and the pep rallies.
“It’s small-town USA and how everyone backs the athletic programs. The older I get, the more I tell the kids to enjoy the process and memories. This will be with the them the rest of their lives. I credit that to our community — our school, fans and everyone else. You can’t beat that, and that’s one reason I’ve stayed here 24 years.”
The winner of Friday’s game will play the victor of Garrett and Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran at Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 26 for the Class 3A state title.
2016 South Semistate Championship
What: Brownstown Central (12-1) at Lawrenceburg (12-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Neary Field
Radio: 96.3 WJAA
Last outing: Brownstown Central def. Evansville Memorial 30-7, Lawrenceburg def. Danville 37-20
Previous meeting: Brownstown Central def. Lawrenceburg 14-7 on Oct. 30, 2009 (sectional)
Series past 30 years: Lawrenceburg 3-2