-- — The night got off to a rocky start for the Batesville High School football team, but the players kept their composure and went on to record a 37-21 victory over Jennings County.
Dylan Cook took the hand off from sophomore quarterback Connor Schuck and fumbled the ball as he was being wrestled to the ground.
The Panthers capitalized and scored six plays later to take a 7-0 lead.
“It was not the way we wanted to start the game, but I thought the kids responded well,” BHS head coach Eric Heppner commented. “I told Dylan (Cook) to shake it off ... it probably would not be the last time he fumbled this season.
“You just have to keep playing the game,” he added.
Just as Heppner had hoped Cook put the miscue behind him and the made the most of his next attempt. Cook hauled in the kickoff and scampered to the JC 46 yard line to give the Bulldogs excellent field position. Three plays later Matt Linkel scored from 10 yards out and Mike Hoeing kicked the extra point to tie the game at 7-7.
It was not long until the Bulldogs were up 21-7 in the second quarter and seemingly in control of the game.
Hoeing kicked his first of a school record three field goals later in period to put the Bulldogs in 24-7.
Jennings County added a touchdown in the final minute to cut the deficit to 10 at halftime.
A 10 yard touchdown run by Cook and field goals of 31 and 37 yards by Hoeing proved to be more than enough in the second half.
Not to take away from its importance, many times the glamour of scoring points overshadows some of the work done in the trenches.
On this night, members of the offensive and defensive line, especially Mitchell Williamson, Zach Hall, Noah Gausman, Graham Hunter and Aaron Stirn, played key roles in the victory. Forced to play both offense and defense most of the night, their output for four quarters drew praise from the head coach.
“A year ago when began the season the line play was a weakness ... this year it is just the opposite - it is one of our biggest strengths,” BHS head coach Eric Heppner commented. “I cannot say enough about their effort.”
With a sophomore quarterback making his starting debut, it was a senior that stepped up and took some of the pressure off Schuck.
Mike Hoeing turned in one of the best individual efforts in recent memory.
In addition to setting a school record with three field goals in a single game, the senior wide receiver caught five passes for 105 yards, including a pair of touchdowns.
“What a night,” Heppner commented. “The confidence and maturity he (Hoeing) showed tonight was big for us”
Schuck finished the night with 120 yards passing on six completions, while Cook led the team in rushing with 141 yards, including a long of 64 in the first quarter.
Defensively, the Bulldogs were led by Stirn with 16 tackle points (a combination of solo and assists). Williamson was second with two solo and eight assists, while Will Amberger caused one fumble and had an interception.
The Bulldogs return to action on Friday when they travel to Milan. The Indians opened with a win over Northeastern.