By Justin Sokeland
SHELBYVILLE – Somewhere in the cloud of dust that hung over the pulverized, thirsty turf that was once green at Shelbyville’s McKeand Stadium, Bedford North Lawrence dug up its explosive offense. Just in time, too. When the dirt settled, history had been made.
Unexpectedly challenged after racing to a two-touchdown lead over a one-win opponent, the Stars erupted for a three-score finish to the first half, the turning point in a rare postseason triumph. Playing in the dirt, rather than scraping through the rubber pellets of artificial turf, suited BNL just fine. Rubbed some dirt on its sectional aches, too.
Making their Class 4A Sectional 23 debut, the Stars detonated for three touchdowns in a six-minute span while stopping Shelbyville 42-21 in the first round on Friday night. Cal Gates scored three times, and BNL (6-4) added a blocked-punt score while advancing to the semifinal to face Martinsville.
How rare? In the first-ever clash with the struggling Golden Bears (1-9), that was only the 12th sectional win in program history. That clinched only the third winning season since the lone sectional title in 2011. And it was the first win on (what was once) grass this season.
Locked in a 14-14 deadlock midway through the second quarter, BNL went ballistic. Score, stop, score, stop, score, in electric style.
“That was the difference in the game, a big momentum shift,” BNL coach Derrick Barker said. “That was a great job of complementary football. The offense picked us up. That swing is huge with high school kids.”
After two mistakes (roughing the punter and a fumble) set up two Shelbyville scores, BNL snatched back control with some brilliance. First score: Memphis Louden connected with Gates on a 30-yard catch, setting up Louden’s own 8-yard touchdown run. Second score: 58 yards in only three plays and 72 seconds. Gates for 10 yards, Louden to Kole Bailey for 29, Gates to the end zone from 19.
Third score: Taking over at their own 28, the Stars went the distance in only 48 seconds. Louden to Bailey for a first down, plus a personal foul penalty. Louden to Bailey for 19 more. Louden to Dylan Nikirk for 28 yards. And finally, Louden to Ryker Hughes, who made a sensational snag in the back-right corner of the end zone, getting one foot down while absorbing a hit.
“Their receivers made some plays, their quarterback made some throws in that first half that were spectacular,” Shelbyville coach Brian Glesing said. “We had to put some kids on an island, and we were there. They were just a little taller and more athletic, made those plays.”
That finish was thrilling, although BNL’s opening surge was equally impressive. First drive: 13 plays, 85 yards. Louden to Bailey for 24 yards, Louden to Bailey for 14, Louden to Hughes for 19. Gates capped it with a 3-yard TD burst.
Shelbyville’s next possession ended in disaster. Jackson Parker’s punt was swatted by Ruel Steele, and BNL lineman Greg Gilbert scooped up the loose ball and lumbered into the end zone (for BNL’s first non-offensive TD of the season) for a quick 14-0 lead.
“Big-man touchdowns are always awesome,” Barker said.
As the dusted settled in the second half, BNL got a little sloppy. Two turnovers left a stain, and the second one led to Shelbyville’s final score with Eli Chappelow hitting Parker from six yards on fourth-and-goal. But BNL’s defense also came up with two fourth-down stops and a late Hughes interception.
“I was proud of our kids for fighting back,” Glesing said. “That was the best defense we’ve played, in two years, in the second half. We started making some plays, got some turnovers, we were doing some good things. It could have easily been a lot worse.”
The Bears were efficient and effective on the ground, totaling 206 rushing yards. Axel Conover had a game-high 103 (including a 60-yard blast that created the 14-14 deadlock).
BNL had a lot of highlights. Louden was 12 of 20 for 189 yards, with Bailey catching four for 72. Gates finished with 86 rushing yards, and Hughes had the game’s most amazing play with that high-fade, high-degree-of-difficulty catch that capped the late surge to end the half.
“We couldn’t have won the game without it,” Hughes said of the big-bang bombardment. “We got our act together and fought through.”
”He went and got it, that was amazing,” Barker said of the Hughes catch. “There were a lot of things to hang our hat on, whether it was the deep passes, the screen game, and the run game.”
BNL will now face a rematch with Martinsville (which blasted Greenwood 49-0) next week.
“It might not have been the prettiest, but it’s only the 12th time in school history,” Barker said. “We had some good teams and lot of good players who weren’t able to win a sectional game. Now it gives us a chance to play a bigger game next week.”
In the opposite bracket of Sectional 23, East Central crushed Edgewood 53-6 and Silver Creek won a 53-42 shootout with Jennings Country.
Bedford NL 14 21 0 7 – 42
Shelbyville 0 14 0 7 – 21
BNL – Cal Gates, 3 run (Billy Cline kick) 5:10; BNL – Greg Gilbert, blocked punt return (Clline kick)
S – Jordan Marcum, 3 run (Aiden Helfer-Vazquez kick), 11:04; S – Axel Conover, 60 run (Helfer-Vazquez kick) 8:32; BNL – Memphis Louden, 8 run (Cline kick) 5:46; BNL – Gates, 19 run (Cline kick), 2:33; BNL – Ryker Hughes, 5 pass from Louden (Cline kick) 0:03
S – Jackson Parker, 6 pass from Eli Chappelow (Helfer-Vazquez kick) 10:46; BNL – Gates 5 run (Cline kick) 5:39
BNL – First downs 17 (9 by run, 7 by pass, 1 by penalty); Rushing 33-170; Passing 12-20-2-189; Total yards 359; Fumbles 1 (lost 1); Penalties 2-20
Shelbyville – First downs 12 (6 by run, 5 by pass, 1 by penalty); Rushing 52-206; Passing 8-15-1-96; Total yards 302; Fumbles 0; Penalties 3-25
Rushing – (BNL) Louden 8-10, Gates 12-86, Nikirk 10-64, Rynders 3-10; (S) Chappelow 1-0, Conover 15-103, Jackson 14-41, Lux 5-10, Turner 13-35, Marcum 4-17
Passing – (BNL) Louden 12-20-2-189; (S) Chappelow 8-15-1-96
Receiving – (BNL) Nikirk 3-39, Hughes 3-48, Bailey 4-72, Gates 2-30; (S) Parker 5-65, Lux 1-14, Conover 2-17