WAYNE — Just when it seemed like momentum had swung in favor of Battle Creek, host Wayne pushed the pendulum back.
After the Class C No. 3 Braves scored a touchdown and tying 2-point conversion to begin the second half, the host Blue Devils counterpunched with the lead-changing touchdown early in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in a 21-14 victory.
"I thought we responded well," Wayne coach Russ Plager said. "They scored their second touchdown, we went down and scored, and then that carried over into our defense. That was a big scoring drive."
Brandon Bartos scored his third touchdown of the night when he dodged a defender near the line of scrimmage, slid past another and scampered into the end zone with 9 minutes, 13 seconds remaining. It was his final points on a night in which he rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and he also turned a short swing pass from quarterback Tanner Walling into a 30-yard receiving score.
"We knew this was going to be a hard game," Bartos said. "Battle Creek is always good. They're always physical. So, we came out, and we knew it was going to be a dogfight. After we got that (last) touchdown, it was a momentum getter."
From there, they turned it over to a defense that held Battle Creek to less than 100 rushing yards on the night. Braves quarterback Dylan Amick finished with more passing yards (167) than Walling (147), but the Blue Devils picked off two passes at crucial times and forced a pair of fourth-down stops in the fourth quarter to help seal the win.
"Our kids played really hard," Battle Creek coach Andrew Carlson said. "It's just things we have to clean up, and it starts with us as coaches. We have to make sure it's more of an emphasis than we already are, and try to get better."
Walling found a wide-open Yair Alcantara for a 36-yard gain that set up Bartos' first scoring run midway through the second quarter, and after an interception, Walling connected with Bartos on a short swing pass, and Bartos did the rest.
That lead could have been even bigger. The Blue Devils drove to inside the red zone on the first drive of the game, but fumbled on fourth-and-2. On its next drive, Wayne had second-and-1 inside the Battle Creek 30, but a penalty and lost yardage on a swing pass led to a punt.
Battle Creek eventually made them pay thanks to the passing game. Amick found Baron Buckendahl for an 11-yard gain on third-and-8, and on the next play, Kamren Lingenfelter got behind the defense for a 35-yard play down to the Wayne 11. With 36 seconds left in the half, Buckendahl's toe-tapping catch just beyond the goal line in front of the pylon was enough for a 9-yard touchdown.
In addition to that, Battle Creek also started the second half with the ball. The Braves took advantage, piecing together a 13-play, 69-yard drive that took the first 7:20 of the half and didn't end until the game was tied. Logan Roberts ran the ball on seven of those plays, including five straight starting with a fourth-and-2 conversion. Trent Uhlir slipped out of the backfield on a play-action pass and turned it into a 12-yard touchdown, and ran nearly the same play for a 2-point conversion to tie it at 14.
"We started fast, but then we didn't keep our feet on the gas pedal for a while," Plager said. "They're a good ball team, and they took advantage of that."
Battle Creek would have the ball three more times, but those drives resulted in a three-and-out, an interception on fourth down, and a sack on fourth down in the final minute.
"This was a game we talked about that would come down to turnovers and penalties," Carlson said, "and we lost in both of those categories."
Wayne 21, Battle Creek 14
BC 0 6 8 0 — 14
Wayne 0 14 0 7 — 21
W: Brandon Bartos 4 run, kick failed, 6:25.
W: Bartos 30 pass from Tanner Walling, Walling run, 3:26.
BC: Baron Buckendahl 9 pass from Dylan Amick, kick failed, 0:36.
BC: Trent Uhlir 12 pass from Amick, Uhlir pass from Amick, 4:40.
W: Bartos 8 run, Yair Alcantara kick, 9:13.