Stars, taking a deep breath, shoot down Seymour’s air assault for thrilling 36-28 road victory

SEYMOUR – BNL’s Tyler Webb leaps to swat Bret Perry’s pass and record an interception during Friday night’s HHC battle with Seymour. The Stars forced three turnovers during a 36-28 win.

By Justin Sokeland

SEYMOUR – The world record for breath holding is 24 minutes and 37 seconds. Bedford North Lawrence’s super-stressed defense, under constant threat and assault from one of the state’s prolific scoring machines, unofficially broke that. Every time the ball went in the air, somebody turned blue.

Exhale, take a deep gulp of air. Not only did the Stars survive, they thrived while taking another huge step toward defending their Hoosier Hills Conference championship.

With a ball-hawking secondary, with another sensational special teams contribution, with a robust running game and a go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, BNL knocked the wind out of Seymour with a breathless 36-28 road triumph on Friday night. Memphis Louden ran for 135 yards and two scores, and BNL’s flak-firing defense shot down three interceptions as the Stars won their third straight league test.

This one was, by far, the greatest challenge. Seymour quarterback Bret Perry and his squadron of receivers kept BNL busy, unable to relax at any moment. Yet BNL withstood the attack and strengthened its hold on the HHC lead by keeping one of the state’s high-scoring offenses in check.

Twice, BNL had to battle from behind. Thrice, the Stars forced turnovers from an offense that was averaging over 44 points per game. The magnitude of the victory, and the way it was secured, cannot be overstated.

Louden connected with Cal Gates for a lighting-bolt 45-yard touchdown pass that was the ultimate game winner. But so many plays transpired, so many twists and turns preceded that point. The bottom line? BNL (3-2 overall) found another unique way to win.

“It’s unreal,” BNL senior Maddox Ray, one of the defensive heroes, said. “They beat us at home last year, and we needed to get them back. And we did, really stuck it to them.”

So let’s start from the beginning . . .

First series, second play, Louden scrambled up the middle, shifted into overdrive and raced 60 yards for the first score. Next series, Ryker Hughes snagged an interception (matching Perry’s total for the first four games), and BNL was off and running.

SEYMOUR – BNL’s Cal Gates races into open territory. Gates ran for 115 yards scored twice.

But the high-flying Owls (2-3 overall, 2-2 in the league) would not stay grounded long. Perry hit tight end Jaylan Johnson for 27 yards to highlight an 80-yard march that Logan Shelly capped with a 12-yard dash. BNL’s next possession ended with a high punt snap that kicker Kline Woodward had to chase down and boot on the move, giving the Owls outstanding field position at midfield. They capitalized as Perry found Jack Pennington for a 16-yard score and the first lead change.

BNL responded immediately. Cal Gates exploded for a 63-yard burst, and Louden found Hughes in the left corner for a 21-yard touchdown and a 14-14 deadlock. After an exchange of interceptions, Seymour threatened to end the half with a score, but the Stars turned away the Owls on fourth down from the 3-yard line with 1:06 left.

When the Stars relaxed for even an instant, they suffered. Seymour opened the third quarter with a shock-and-awe eruption. Perry opened the drive with a 44-yard bomb to Kyle Hileman, then two plays later hit Pennington along the right sideline. He slipped through a soft tackle and walked a tightrope along the boundary to score from 23 yards for a 21-14 lead.

Then came two momentum changers. The first was Ray’s interception late in the third. That gave the offense a running start at the 35. Gates cracked 14 yards, Louden converted a third down with a spinning, twisting 13-yard romp, and Gates plowed over from 3 yards out for a 21-21 deadlock.

Next came special teams into the equation. Ray stormed unblocked up the middle to swat a punt, with Brayden Baker recovering at the 13. Louden scored two runs later for a 28-21 advantage.

SEYMOUR – BNL’s Ryker Hughes and Trace Rynders combine to stop Seymour’s Jack Pennington.

“It was awesome,” Ray said. “I saw the lane (to the punter) and just took it.”

“Coach (Jacob) LeFree does an amazing job with special teams, I can’t compliment him enough,” BNL coach Derrick Barker said. “And the kids buy into it. That’s where it really clicks. They understand the importance of it. In a big game, you have to have plays like that. That’s how you win big-time games.”

Once again, Seymour came right back. On the next snap, Perry lofted a perfect strike to Shelly, who got behind the defense for stunning 75-yard touchdown to force a 28-28 standoff. And when BNL’s next chance ended with a fourth-down stop, the Owls had an opportunity to reclaim the lead. They could not, and BNL took over at its own 29 with 3:40 left.

Louden wasted little of that time. He rifled a deep sideline pass to Hughes, who made a great catch (after a Seymour defender tipped the ball) for 29 yards. Two plays after that, Louden rolled left and found Gates – streaking out of the backfield – for the go-ahead score with two minutes left. And BNL added a huge two-point conversion when Baker scooped up a bad snap, rumbled right to the sideline (maybe even stepping on the boundary?) and powered into the end zone for a critical eight-point edge.

“A lot of panic,” Baker said. “That definitely wasn’t designed. I knew we had to score. It was just a crazy play.”

“That’s weight room and want to,” Barker said. “He just wanted to get that ball in there. That kid has made the biggest physical and mental maturity change of anybody from his freshman to senior year. Hard work pays off.”

SEYMOUR – BNL quarterback Memphis Louden accounted for four touchdowns.

Seymour had one final chance in the last two minutes. A old-time hook-and-ladder pass got the Owls past midfield, and Hileman gathered an 11-yard strike for get Seymour into prime position at the 31. But the Stars turned the Owls away, celebrating when a fourth-down fling fell harmlessly near the end zone.

“We knew that’s what it would come down to,” Barker said. “That’s such a good team. Offensively, no matter where you look, they have playmakers. They’ve got guys that can beat you. But when it came down to it, we played complementary football. When we gave up the lead, the offense came right back. Special teams played a great game. That’s what it’s all about.”

In addition to his running yards, Louden completed 9 of 22 passes for 167 yards and two TDs, and did the bulk of that late, hitting four of his last five attempts for 125 yards. Gates added 115 rushing yards.

“Memphis did what he does,” Barker said. “He makes plays. So many guys just played their tails off.”

Add Tyler Webb to that list. He authored the second BNL interception, rushing Perry from his outside linebacker spot, leaping to swat a pass and catching the ball out of the air. He promptly fumbled during the run back, although Trace Rynders pounced on it to save the turnover.

“I came off the edge and nobody blocked me,” said Webb, who also spent a lot of his night in pass coverage. “I saw him looking to throw it and jumped up to block it. I felt it go up in the air, looked up, and just caught the ball. Then my life flashed before my eyes when I dropped it.”

Perry was 23 of 38 for 315 yards, with Pennington catching 7 for 116 yards. Seymour had an edge in first downs (19) and total yards (443) but the three picks and the blocked punt were game changers.

The Stars will host Jennings County next week.

SEYMOUR – Seymour quarterback Bret Perry takes a hit from Gibson Crane while unloading a pass.

Bedford NL 7 7 7 15 – 36

Seymour 7 7 7 7 – 28

First quarter

BNL – Memphis Louden, 60 run (Ryker Hughes kick) 11:04; S – Logan Shelly, 12 run (Jack Pennington kick) 5:00

Second quarter

S – Pennington, 16 pass from Bret Perry (Pennington kick), 11:03; BNL – Hughes, 21 pass from Louden (Hughes kick) 9:16

Third quarter

S – Pennington, 23 pass from Perry (Pennington kick) 10:42; BNL – Cal Gates, 3 run (Hughes kick) 0:46

Fourth quarter

BNL – Louden, 7 run (Hughes kick), 8:45; S – Shelly, 75 pass from Perry (Pennington kick) 8:29; BNL – Gates, 45 pass from Louden (Brayden Baker run) 2:00

Team statistics

BNL – First downs 11 (7 by run, 4 by pass); Rushing 31-255; Passing 9-22-1-167; Total yards 422; Fumbles 2 (lost 0); Penalties 5-61

Seymour – First downs 19 (7 by run, 9 by pass, 3 by penalty); Rushing 31-128; Passing 23-38-3-315; Total yards 443; Fumbles 1 (lost 0); Penalties 1-5

Individual statistics

Rushing – (BNL) Louden 15-135, Gates 14-115, Childs 2-5; (Sey) Perry 4-17, N. Wheeler 12-42, C. Wheeler 11-40, Shelly 2-11, Johnson 2-18

Passing – (BNL) Louden 9-22-1-167; (Sey) Perry 23-38-3-315

Receiving – (BNL) Gates 3-58, Childs 3-12, Hughes 2-50, Gilbert 1-47; (Sey) Pennington 7-116, Hileman 7-72, Johnson 4-19, N. Wheeler 1-4, Shelly 3-89, C. Wheeler 1-5