A sophomore and first-time starter at quarterback, and an entirely new offensive line, aren’t exactly prerequisites for gridiron success, but with a strong team work ethic and players who step up when called upon, Class 6A No. 2 Brownsburg has proven itself on game night.
With big wins over Cathedral and rival Avon, the Bulldogs are 5-0, and the last unbeaten team in Hoosier Crossroads Conference play.
“We’re a team that’s played at a really high level in practice,” third-year Brownsburg coach John Hart said. “I don’t know that experience-wise we should be No. 2 in the state, but we’ve competed and executed really well.”
Quarterback Ben Easters (712 yards, 11 touchdowns, five interceptions) has one of the most reliable receivers in the area in Northwestern commit Bryce Kirtz (29 catches, 349 yards, five TDs), who’s snagged nearly half of Easter’s completions. Kirtz also has 104 rushing yards at 8.7 per carry, and completed his only pass for 34 yards.
“Bryce has developed all parts of his game, and what people who offered him liked was that he can play every skill position,” Hart said. “We move him constantly to give him a lot of opportunities to change the ballgame.”
Running back Donny Marcus (814 yards, six TDs) averages a whopping 29 carries and 163 yards per game on the ground.
“He’s somebody I thought would get an offer in the offseason. I thought he was that good last year,” Hart said. “He’ll go higher and higher. He’s been really tough. He gets hit and keeps rolling forward.”
The new O-line, led by Jalen Cox (5-11, 285), brings size and a workmanlike mentality you want to see at the position.
“They had a great offseason, really bought into how hard you have to work daily,” Hart said.
The defense has given up 14.6 points per game, including just seven against third-ranked Avon, which scores 34 per contest.
Inside linebacker Cade Shupperd leads the Bulldogs with 28 tackles, including 19 solos and four for loss.
“He’s been a monster for us,” Hart said. “I talked to coach (Mark) Bless at Avon after that game, and we agreed he’s somebody who should already have an offer.”
Shupperd is part of a disruptive front-seven that also includes Dane Middlebrook (nine tackles, offer from Ohio State), Tyrone Griffin (15 tackles, offered by Indiana State), Jake Birkofer (24 tackles), Dorian Keys (22 tackles), Lawson Aiken (21 tackles, 9.5 for loss) and Cody Edmonds (10 tackles).
“They’ve caused a lot of issues for the opposition,” Hart said.
When games are tight, you want a quality placekicker, and the Bulldogs have one in Clay Chase, who’s 19-of-21 on extra points and 5-for-5 on field goals, including a long of 48 yards.
“He’s made two over 45 with the game on the line,” Hart said. “He’s been a huge player for us.”
Brownsburg’s quest for a third straight HCC title continues this week against Westfield. A month from now, focus will turn to the postseason, where the program has one sectional championship since 1985.
“The thing we talk about is whether we’re getting better every day, every game,” Hart said. “Whatever happens in playoff time will be a result of that. As we continue to compete and build depth, it should allow us to play at a high level.”