CHARLESTOWN — Charlestown accomplished the improbable Friday night.
The Pirates were winless in their past three first-round postseason appearances entering their matchup with perennial power Brownstown, ranked third in Class 3A, in Sectional 31. The Braves entered unbeaten on the year with only two opening-round sectional losses in the past 20 seasons.
Now, that’s all history.
Host Charlestown put forth a stellar defensive effort en route to handing Brownstown, which entered averaging 41.1 points per game, its first loss of the season at 7-6, which ended the Braves’ journey for back-to-back titles and extended the Pirates’ season for the first time since 2015.
The win gave Charlestown (8-2) its first over Brownstown (9-1) in four years. It was the second postseason win for coach Jason Hawkins against Braves coach Reed May, who has won all of the program’s 13 sectional titles and three regionals during his 27 years at the helm.
“When you beat a team like Brownstown and a coach like Reed May,” Hawkins said, “it’s a really good feeling.”
The Pirates, searching for their first sectional title since 2014 and sixth overall, will travel to No. 9 Lawrenceburg (9-1), a winner over Scottsburg, next Friday.
“We feel like next week, whoever wins that game, has a really good chance of winning the sectional,” Hawkins said. “Lawrenceburg is a good football team. … We’re just happy we get to play another week.”
Friday’s battle proved to be defensive. Both teams traded scores in the first minute and 10 seconds, but a missed extra point proved to be the difference. The Pirates’ defense, which entered allowing just 8.2 points per game, good for 12th in the state, stood tall against the Braves, who topped the hosts 21-14 in Week 2.
“I felt like this was going to happen,” Charlestown’s Marion Lukes said. “I knew it was going to be a close game. That’s an amazing football team, an amazing coach. … We’re just going to try to keep the train going.”
Lukes, the program’s all-time leading rusher, was once again a standout for the Pirates’ offense on Friday, totaling 170 yards and the lone touchdown on 25 carries, upping his career totals to 5,404 rushing yards and 64 touchdowns in just three seasons.
But it was Hawkins’ defense that anchored the win, he said. It allowed just over 300 yards of total offense – 241 total from quarterback Derek Thompson – but turned the Braves over twice, put together some timely stops and forced a trio of punts.
“We played really well tonight on defense,” Hawkins said. “We adjusted well to what they like to do. We knew we had to stop Derek Thompson. He still had a very good game. … We bent but we really didn’t break. They got inside the 30 maybe two-or-three times, but we came up big and got some stops from our defensive leaders.”
Lukes wasted no time opening scoring with a 47-yard touchdown run through two Brownstown defenders and up the left hash just 17 seconds in. But the Braves quickly answered in the form of a three-play, 63-yard drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown run with 10:50 showing. The pivotal kick missed.
The defenses settled in from that point, as Brownstown forced a turnover on downs on 4th and goal at their 12-yard line. The ensuing three possessions ended in punts before the Pirates put together a threat midway through the second. That threat, however, was thwarted as the Braves forced an Addison Logsdon fumble at the 19.
It was a matchup of both teams’ studs at halftime, as Lukes totaled 125 yards and the score on 14 carries through two quarters, and Thompson totaled 123 rushing yards and 143 total yards at the half.
“That’s an amazing offense,” Lukes said. “That coaching staff has done a wonderful job of perfecting it over the years. It’s very hard to prepare for that. We just knew we had to contain the outsides. [Thompson] is an amazing player. Probably one of the better players that we’re going to play against.”
Both teams turned it over twice to begin the second half, which included a failed fourth-down conversion for Charlestown at the Brownstown 12-yard line, yet again, after a 60-yard completion. A 43-yard run from Thompson gave the Braves solid field position with 10 minutes showing, but penalties later forced the visitors to punt it away.
“Bo Braunecker really keeps our defense at an even keel,” Hawkins said. “Steady. He’s the coach on the field. Hell, there’s sometimes where he calls the defense. I feel real comfortable with him putting us in the right spot when we can’t get a play in. He’s done an excellent job of doing that all year long.”
The Pirates were pinned at the one-yard line but able to pick up a first down on a run by Lukes and later executed a fake punt to perfection with 2:36 left. A quarterback sneak sealed the final.