November 06, 2019While Mother Nature put a 30-degree chill on Floyd Central's Ron Weglieb Stadium Friday night, the Floyd Central Highlanders put the visiting Bedford North Lawrence Stars on ice in their Class 5A Sectional football game.
The 44-30 win put the Highlanders into Friday night's sectional championship game where they will meet visiting Jeffersonville.
"That was a big win," said Floyd Central head coach James Bragg. "That was a good win. BNL, that's a helluva program. It's a dog fight until the end of the game. We knew it. They killed us with their passing game tonight, but our kids didn't quit. We kept fighting and ended up coming out with a victory."
The Stars took delivery of the football first and ran a combination of both ground and passing plays down to the Floyd Central 6-yard line. From there, BNL got on the board as Justice Woods ran in a TD. Ethan Baer got the extra-point, and BNL had a 7-0 lead.
Floyd Central wasted no time getting those seven back. Colin Cummins ran BNL's kickoff back out to the 31-yard line. Tristan Polk threw to Landon Deweese for 16 yards and a quick first down on the Highlanders' opening play. Wenkers Wright carried the next three plays. Polk then picked up a yard before throwing to Payton Wells for a first down. Floyd Central worked the ball to the 16 and, from there, Wright took ball in for a Highlanders six. Cole Hussung added his boot, and the game was tied at 7-all at the end of the first quarter.
The Highlanders went on a rage in the second quarter. Less than a minute into the period, Wright got his second touchdown on a 15-yard run after BNL went three-and-out on its next possession. Calvin Brown intercepted a pass on BNL's next possession that led to Wright getting his third touchdown of the game on a 7-yard run and a 21-7 lead.
BNL got as close as the Floyd Central 11-yard line on its next possession but failed to convert. With 3:33 left in the half, Polk threw to Kaleb Quenichet for six more points. Hussung had a rare miss, leaving the score at 27-7.
With the clock running down in the half, the Stars made one last charge. With less than a minute to go, Dalton Nikirk connected with Derek Hutchens, moving the ball to the 30-yard line.
Following a missed pass, Nikirk threw to Hutchens again. Following another time-out, Nikirk ran for a first down on fourth-and-3 to the 21. Following the Stars' last time-out of the half, Nikirk threw to Owen Beaver for a BNL touchdown with 13 ticks left. Baer got the extra-point, and the Stars went to the locker room down 27-14 at half.
"We told them at halftime and before the game, 'The Stars are not going to quit until that clock reaches double-zero'," said Bragg.
Floyd Central received the ball to begin the second half but failed to convert, booting the ball to the Stars. BNL pushed down-field and into scoring position, but a holding call stopped that forward momentum. Nikirk was sacked, and the Stars were forced to give up the ball once again.
Floyd Central looked to be on the verge of another touchdown on its next possession with Wright and Polk moving the ball to the 17-yard line. On the next play, however, the Highlanders were called for a helmet-to-helmet penalty that moved the ball back to the 25. Polk missed on his next pass attempt, but Hussung drilled a 41-yard field goal, giving the Highlanders a 30-14 lead.
The margin didn't last long.
BNL quickly moved the ball and, with 3.5 seconds left in the third quarter, Dylan Nikirk scored on a 1-yard run. Their two-point conversion failed, but the Stars got the ball back on the first play of the fourth when Deweese lost his handle after catching a Polk pass. BNL recovered the fumble.
That led to another BNL score when Dalton Nikirk hit Dylan Nikirk for at TD. Baer's kick closed the gap to 30-27.
"We've been here before," Bragg told his team. "Early in the year, we're down 14 to New Albany here at home. Providence was beating us. These guys got back within eight last time. They were ahead in the third quarter, and we were down two points. I said, 'We've been here before guys'."
Wright returned the ball out to the 42-yard line following BNL's kickoff. The next three run plays moved the ball to the BNL 32. With 7:53 left in the game, Polk hit Quenichet again for a score and a 37-27 lead.
BNL fought to stay in the hunt, going to the air. Midway through the period, Dalton Nikirk threw to Hutchens to the 35-yard line and a Floyd Central penalty added 15 more yards. The Stars failed to gain any ground on their next two plays. Baer went to work again and connected for a 31-yard field goal with 4:20 to go.
That, however, would be the final points the Stars would get on the board. Floyd Central worked the clock on its next possession. Polk ran three ground plays to midfield, then Wright moved the ball into BNL territory. Wright later added his fourth TD of the game, and Hussung's extra point made the score 44-30.
BNL furiously worked the final minute hoping for a miracle. That didn't happen, and the Highlanders moved on with the 44-30 win.
"It shows a lot of heart on our team," said Bragg. "We believe a lot. Wenkers Wright is a helluva running back. If you're going to lose a game, you're going to lose to your head dog. It was a helluva drive from there, and they switched up coverages and we took advantage of them on that pass to Quinechet."
The Highlander effort was there.
"I can't emphasize enough for our kids coming together the past two weeks over the bye week," said Bragg. "They were executing and believing in every play we ran. That was a huge game tonight."
Wright dominated on the ground with 219 yards rushing on 24 carries. Polk had nine carries for 61 yards and completed 15 of 18 pass attempts for 194 yards in the air.
"(Polk) hurt Bedford with that in the first half the first time we played them and, in the second half, he got banged up so he couldn't run anymore," Bragg said. "But three weeks off, we didn't run him and this week we had him keep it. When you've got Wenkers Wright, everybody dives to him so that opens up Tristan on the back sides."
Tabin Stillions led BNL's ground game with 70 yards on eight carries, and Skyler Bates had 39 yards on 11 touches. Dalton Nikirk carried six times for 27 yards rushing but added 231 yards passing connecting on 17 of 31 attempts.
"We didn't run very many plays that third quarter," said Bragg. "Bedford kept us off the field, and that was one of the things we went in this week talking about. If they can keep us off the field, they can hurt us offensively, and they did a great job in the third quarter. But luckily, the fourth quarter, we got the ball and we drove down the field."
Bragg said they would celebrate the win for 24 hours then work on getting ready for Jeffersonville for Friday night's championship.
"We haven't looked ahead," he said. "We saw them play this Bedford team and Jeff was up 20 and lost that game. So, they have firepower and we know they can play well on defense. We're going to enjoy this one. We'll watch the tape tonight and see how they executed and beat New Albany, and we'll regroup on Monday."
Bedford N.L. 7 7 6 10 30
Floyd Central 7 20 3 14 44
BNL Justice Woods 6 run (Ethan Baer kick); FC Wenkers Wright 16 run (Cole Hussung kick); FC Wright 15 run (Hussung kick); FC Wright 7 run (Hussung kick); FC Kaleb Quinechet 23 pass from Tristan Polk (kick fails); BNL Owen Beaver 21 pass from Dalton Nikirk (Baer kick); FC Hussung 41 FG; BNL Dylan Nikirk 1 run (conv fails); BNL Dylan Nikirk 34 pass from Dalton Nikirk (Baer kick); FC Quenichet 27 pass from Polk (Hussung kick); BNL Baer 31 FG; FC Wright 30 run (Hussung kick).