BNL’s hard-working ‘dirty’ dozen preparing for Senior Night farewell against Madison

BNL quarterback Memphis Louden, one of 12 seniors on the roster, and the Stars will celebrate Senior Night when BNL clashes with Madison on Friday night.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – When Derrick Barker took over as head coach at Bedford North Lawrence, he put his trust in a talented sophomore class, exposing them to the fire of varsity competition. Several earned starting positions right away. Ready or not, they had to thrive or get consumed. Survival mode forced them to mature in a hurry.

Three years later, this grizzled senior class – experienced in age and development – is preparing for its farewell. That doesn’t seem possible, proving again that time accelerates with age. Not only have the elder Stars survived and thrived, they have become a respected, dangerous group. And they hope to leave a legacy of success before they’re done.

BNL will celebrate Senior Night for a ‘dirty’ dozen (dirty in terms of the sweaty work they’ve endured to reach this point) on Friday night when the Stars host Madison. After the emotional pregame introductions, after marching into the stadium with flags flying and the familiar theme song blaring, after charging out of the tunnel as the band belts out the school song, they will seek to complete a perfect home-field half of the regular season. It’s been six years since BNL went undefeated on its turf.

That’s just the first goal on their list. Want to be remembered? Win a sectional. And that’s not out of the question. BNL (4-3) is arguably three plays from being undefeated, with all three losses coming on the road (against ranked foes) in the final moments. The Stars can’t change that, but they could alter the outside reputation of the program with their final surge.

That starts with Madison (1-6).

The senior class of Kline Woodward, Memphis Louden, Gabe Nelson, Ryker Hughes, Brayden Baker, Garrett Hayes, Trace Rynders, Piaire Childs, Maddox Ray, Ely Benish, Cade Mungle and Michael Barr have been huge parts of 14 wins over the last three seasons.

BNL coach Derrick Barker and the Stars are seeking to remain unbeaten at home this season.

“The biggest thing is their experience,” Barker said. “They’ve played a lot of varsity football. You realize there’s a lot of kids who went through some tough times, took their lumps while growing physically and mentally, and now they’re really good leaders and teammates.

“It’s a special group. We’d like to have capitalized on those close games for them, but there’s still a lot to play for. We’re excited for them and proud of what they’ve accomplished. It’s an important night to them. They get to celebrate their careers, and I’m sure there will be emotions. But once the ball is kicked off, we have to settle in to playing football.”

The emotional impact of Senior Night is unpredictable. Tears and football usually don’t mix. It’s the memories, interrupting the required mental focus on the field, that make performing more difficult.

“I’ve been anticipating it for a long time,” Baker said. “I’m just ready. It makes me sad to think about how fast it’s gone by. This is our last guaranteed home game.”

“It’s a lot to take in,” Hayes said. “I feel like it’s gone in the blink of an eye.”

“It’s kind of scary, the last guaranteed home game,” Barr added. “One last time, for certain.”

Here’s the certain. BNL will be an overwhelming favorite, according to records and Sagarin ratings. Here’s another certain. The Stars can’t get caught overlooking this opponent. Last year’s stunning loss at Madison will be brought up repeatedly.

Those Cubs, powered by do-everything back Colin Yancey, posted a 21-14 upset. BNL was coming off a huge win over Floyd Central and looking forward to a battle with Columbus East to determine the Hoosier Hills Conference title. The trap-game scenario played out to perfection as Yancey scored three touchdowns while BNL was guilty of two turnovers (converted into touchdowns). The Stars also gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and allowed four sacks. Madison won for only the fifth time in the series.

BNL’s Cal Gates leads the Stars in rushing and receiving yards this season.

“They put it to us last year,” Barker said. “We were coming off a big win, looking ahead to a big game, and they played really well. That was the first thing we talked about this week. It doesn’t matter who you play, if you beat yourself, if you turn the ball over and miss tackles, anybody is capable of beating you.”

“We learned you can’t take anything for granted,” Barr said. “It’s a football game and any team can win. There is no predetermined winner.”

That was a hard lesson, one of many this senior class has absorbed. Another was last week’s 28-27 loss at Floyd Central. BNL went for two points with 47 seconds left and failed to execute the go-ahead conversion.

“The kids showed their resilience, the fight to come back (from two scores down) and get it to a two-point conversion from taking the lead,” Barker said. “I still feel pretty good about the decision. We had a good play that we felt good about. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. We’ve moved on.”

BNL’s last home loss to Madison was another shocker, a 21-20 loss in 2019. Same situation, overlooking an underdog, same result.

The Stars should have advantages at multiple spots. Louden, coming off his best passing game of the season, has thrown for 910 yards and 11 touchdowns (with only one interception). Running back Cal Gates (536 yards and six TDs) and Louden (441 yards, 9 TDs) highlight a balanced running game. BNL’s defense will face an opponent that averages only 12.3 points per game.

If BNL is focused, Senior Night could be one of those snap-shot kind of nights. Smiles, hugs and unforgettable moments. If not, it could become one of those dysfunctional family issues. The seniors want to go out on the positive side.

“We’re always there for each other,” Barr said. “We go through everything together. It’s a great group of guys.”

BNL linebacker Gibson Crane and the defense will face a Madison offense averaging only 12.3 points.


Kickoff: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Records: Madison 1-6; BNL 4-3

Coaches: LeRoy Wilson, 12-35 in fifth season with Madison; Derrick Barker, 14-14 in third season with BNL

Sagarin ratings: Madison 14.53; BNL 65.86

Series: BNL leads 29-5

Last meeting: Last year at Madison, the Cubs stunned the Stars 21-14. Colin Yancey scored all three touchdowns for Madison, including a kickoff return to start the third quarter. Memphis Louden was 13 of 30 passing for 150 yards for BNL.

Previous game story: Bear claws snap on Stars

Game notes: Madison has recorded only one winning season since 1992. The Cubs have been outscored 277-52 by Indiana teams on their schedule.