By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – After awarding crowns for Homecoming queens and kings, Bedford North Lawrence earned the right to win one.
Caught in the middle of a dangerous ‘sandwich’ game, coming off a huge road victory and looking ahead to another to likely determine the Hoosier Hills Conference championship, the Stars avoided the potential letdown with a dominating defensive performance against another high-scoring opponent. Jennings County had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide as BNL extended its winning streak with some toughness and resolve.
Memphis Louden scored three touchdowns as the Stars rolled past the vastly-improved Panthers 28-13 on Friday night. Piaire Childs danced and darted for 111 rushing yards, and BNL’s defense swarmed and stifled a potent Jennings running game as the Stars maintained their status atop the league with their fourth straight victory.
Maybe now, when BNL’s defense walks down the street, kings and queens will step aside. They were bad to the bone, shutting down Jennings star Branden Braun, who was averaging impressive stats (8.2 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns during the first five weeks of the season). Braun was limited to 75 yards (with 23 coming on his final carry late in the fourth quarter) on 23 carries. And a Jennings offense that was averaging over 40 points per game didn’t come close to that.
“We were hard nosed,” BNL senior safety Maddox Ray said. “Everyone was getting in there.”
Ray also had the game-changing play, blocking a punt to set up the second BNL score. From that point, the Stars were in control until the Panthers (3-3 overall, 0-3 in the HHC) broke for a final touchdown with 27 seconds left. That mattered little at that point. The Stars (4-2, 4-0) had made their point.
“I was really happy with the defense,” BNL coach Derrick Barker said. “That’s a really good team. The improvement they’ve made is night and day. They’re a tough bunch. So any time you can get a win like that, definitely relieved.”
BNL’s offense scored on its first drive. Louden exploded for 28 yards on the first snap, Cal Gates ripped off 15, and Louden scampered home from 8 yards on fourth down for a quick 7-0 lead. But Jennings answered on its first possession of the second quarter. Sam Burkman connected with receiver Lane Kirchner for 37 yards, setting up Braun’s 1-yard blast on fourth down. The extra-point kick fluttered short, leaving the Stars in 7-6 command.
The next Jennings drive was stopped quickly, and that’s when Ray burst through to smother a punt, with Tyler Webb scooping the loose ball and racing to the 1-yard line. Louden burrowed into the end zone from there on the next play for a 14-6 edge.
“We worked on it all week,” Ray said of the block. “They were sending me.”
“Once again, it’s an important phase of the game for us,” Barker said. “Special teams made winning plays.”
In the third quarter, the Stars pulled away. Childs capped a 69-yard drive with a 33-yard eruption at 6:11. On the next possession, he darted 29 yards, and Louden found receiver Gabe Nelson twice for quick-slant catches. Louden finished it off with a 10-yard touchdown around the left side for a 28-6 advantage.
“The offense did a good job of making some plays,” Barker said. “There was nothing real explosive, but a lot of quality gains.”
Jennings had the ball for all but two minutes of the final period, and its last drive (kept alive by a roughing the kicker penalty) resulted in Blaine Ison’s 19-yard TD catch with 27 seconds left.
Childs averaged 15.9 yards per carry, and that doesn’t include the sideways yards he ran to break bigger plays. He had been limited in practice by a bad foot, but he was full speed and elusive. And his contributions were important when Gates went down with a left knee injury midway through the third quarter.
“He looked like Piaire again,” Barker said. “It was good to see him moving and making guys miss in the open field.”
“It’s cool to see where he’s going,” said Louden, who usually has the best seat in the house to watch it unfold. Louden also completed 7 of 17 passes, despite seeing a lot of eight-man coverage in the secondary.
“It came down to him making plays with his feet, extending some plays,” Barker said. “He did a good job of that. Take what the defense gives us.”
“We didn’t have the best games of our lives,” Louden said. “It happens with games like this.”
Burkman was 13 of 30 passing (with a Trace Rynders interception) for 157 yards. Braun was the leading receiver with 5 for 40 yards.
BNL’s win, combined with Floyd Central’s 28-3 victory over Columbus East, set up a huge showdown for the league lead. “I love it,” Ray said. “It’s exciting.” The Stars, defending their league title from a year ago, will visit the Highlanders next week.
Jennings Co. 0 6 0 7 – 13
Bedford NL 7 7 14 0 – 28
BNL – Memphis Louden, 8 run (Ryker Hughes kick), 9:09
JC – Branden Braun, 1 run (kick failed), 8:13; BNL – Louden, 1 run (Hughes kick), 3:50
BNL – Piaire Childs, 33 run (Hughes kick), 6:11; BNL – Louden, 10 run (Hughes kick), 1:12
JC – Blaine Ison, 19 pass from Sam Burkman (Liam Sherwood kick), 0:27
JC – First downs 14 (7 by run, 6 by pass, 1 by penalty); Rushing 35-114; Passing 13-30-1-157; Total yards 271; Fumbles 0; Penalties 6-45
BNL – First downs 13 (8 by run, 4 by pass, 1 by penalty); Rushing 28-212; Passing 7-17-0-68; Total yards 280; Fumbles 0; Penalties 8-61
Rushing – (JC) Burkman 5-20, Braun 23-75, Harrison 3-7, McCory 2-14, Ison 1-0, Barnes 1-(-2); (BNL) Louden 11-36, Gates 9-63, Childs 7-111, Ray 1-1
Passing – (JC) Burkman 13-30-1-157; (BNL) Louden 7-17-0-68
Receiving – (JC) Byford 1-15, Braun 5-40, Hifo 2-23, Kirchner 2-44, Harrison 1-13, Ison 2-22; (BNL) Nelson 2-20, Hughes 1-11, Gates 2-21, Childs 1-6, Pedersen 1-10