Go for two or kick the extra point?
That question faced Brownstown Central’s football team throughout its thrilling but ultimately heartbreaking 41-40 loss to Lawrenceburg during Friday night’s Class 3A semistate game.
The Braves (12-2) scored the same number of touchdowns — six — as Lawrenceburg, but managed to succeed on just two of six 2-point conversion attempts.
Lawrenceburg, meanwhile, kicked five extra points and went 0-for-1 on 2-point conversions. That 5-4 advantage on extra points proved to be the difference.
“It’s what we do,” Brownstown Central head coach Reed May said of his decision to go for that last 2-point conversion. “We’ve done it all year. At the end of the game, in a hostile environment, we couldn’t stop No. 40 (Lawrenceburg running back Austin Bowling). Unfortunately, it didn’t work. That play will haunt me.
“We were two points away from going to state.”
Friday’s defeat denied Brownstown its first trip to the state championship. Lawrenceburg (13-1) will advance to next Saturday’s title game.
The loss dropped Brownstown to 0-3 in semistate games and nullified an inspired second-half comeback by the Braves. Brownstown Central entered Friday’s game with a hot defense, only allowing a total of 31 points in its first four tournament games.
On Friday, however, after the Braves stopped Lawrenceburg on its first drive, the Tigers scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions.
In other words, Brownstown allowed more points in the first half — 34 — than in its previous four games.
“We changed some things at halftime, but basically, we just had to regroup and play better,” May said. “Lawrenceburg has a great team. To come back and almost win, I’m proud of our kids.”
Facing a seemingly insurmountable tide of Lawrenceburg momentum and a 34-20 deficit, Brownstown’s defense found traction in the second half.
Lawrenceburg’s all-world running back, Bowling, was limited to 60 yards and no TDs after the half. The 6-foot, 220-pound senior terrorized the Braves in the first half, racking up 146 yards and three TDs.
Brownstown, meanwhile, put its offense on the shoulders of senior Gavin Bane and junior Gus Hogan.
Bane ran for 266 yards on just 16 carries, including three second-half touchdowns that had Brownstown on the verge of pulling off the improbable victory.
Hogan, after a quiet first half, ran for 66 crucial yards in the second half, including a collection of timely first downs.
“They were keying on Bane, so we started running Hogan,” May said. “(Hogan) did a great job for us. He showed us some things tonight.”
A 42-yard Bane touchdown run with 5:12 left in the game, followed by a Hogan 2-point conversion, tied the game at 34.
But Lawrenceburg answered, almost by accident.
Tiger quarterback Reid Strobl, harassed by Brownstown defenders, fired a wild downfield pass that Hunter Privett somehow caught one-handed at the Braves 40-yard line and then carried to the end zone for a 71-yard TD pass, giving Lawrenceburg a 41-34 lead.
Once again facing a deficit, Brownstown took over at its 36 with 4:30 left on the clock and worked the ball to the Lawrenceburg 4-yard line.
Bane scored his fifth TD of the game with just 1:23 left on the clock, pulling the Braves to within a point of Lawrenceburg, 41-40.
Holding to form, the Braves attempted the 2-point conversion, only to see Bane stopped short of the goal line, ending Brownstown’s season.
The Braves finished the game with 458 yards rushing, a season high, and outgained Lawrenceburg in total offense, 470 yards to 430.
“We moved the ball well on them,” May said. “We scored 40 points, usually that’s good enough to win.”
Bane’s performance, during which he added another 32 points to his Brownstown career-record total (which ended at 462), drew May’s admiration.
“He’s going to be deeply missed,” May said. “He’s so smart. We’ve had some great running backs here, but with all of those records, he has to be considered the best.”
May also tipped his hat to his highly accomplished seniors.
“We have a great group of seniors,” May said. “They’ve had a great career here. I told the kids, ‘Take a look around. This is a great atmosphere, a great facility. You’re going to remember this the rest of your life.'”