BATTLE CREEK — Friday was one homecoming night that Battle Creek will never forget.
The Class C No. 4 Braves withstood a pair of first-quarter fumbles with touchdowns late in the first and second quarters, and two long scoring drives in the second half put the exclamation point on an emphatic 30-0 victory over Norfolk Catholic.
“I've got to give our kids a lot of credit. They probably played their best game of the season,” Battle Creek coach Andrew Carlson said.
It was the first time since 2002, two seasons after the namesake of Bob Schnitzler Field retired from Battle Creek, that the Braves defeated the Knights. It ended a 12-game winning streak for Norfolk Catholic in a series that was not played from 2012 through 2017 as the teams competed in separate classes.
“It's been awhile,” Carlson said. “It was nice to get this rivalry game going again last year, and it's something our community is big behind. It's something that our kids, they might not have been around that last time, but they know about it because their parents have been involved in it and their grandparents have been involved in it.
“It's important to them. They were excited about this game.”
Battle Creek was treated to a victory Friday with a formula that offered a reminder of the Schnitzler days.
The Braves rushed 51 times for 232 yards as a team — finishing with 321 yards of offense — and they shut down the Knights to the tune of 73 yards of total offense for the entire game.
Most of Battle Creek's damage on the ground came from senior Kadin Renner and junior Reece Bode. Renner rushed 26 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns, and Bode bashed for 68 more yards on 17 carries, including the first points of the game.
“We knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle,” Renner said. “The shutout is nice, and we'll take it.”
The first quarter was eventful for both teams.
Battle Creek quarterback Payton Frederick was hit hard and lost a fumble on the game's third play, giving Norfolk Catholic possession 29 yards away from the end zone. But the Knights went 4 yards backwards on the first play before an incompletion, penalty and another incompletion led to a punt. Frederick was knocked out of the game briefly, but when he returned, he fumbled again two plays after Renner had forced a Norfolk Catholic fumble.
“I'm disappointed that we had some mental breakdowns,” Norfolk Catholic coach Jeff Bellar said. “We get a turnover early in the game, then we hurt ourselves with some mental miscues that you can't do when you're playing somebody that's maybe a bit bigger and more physical than you are.”
After the Battle Creek defense held again, the Braves finally got going offensively when they drove 54 yards in 4 minutes, 8 seconds, capped by Bode's 19-yard scamper around the left side.
“Anytime you get those emotional swings in your favor and you can take advantage of it and score, that's a big thing,” Carlson said. “I thought our kids did a good job of, even though we had turnovers, staying focused and keep grinding and doing the things that we talked about all week.”
Battle Creek scored on its final three possessions of the half, including a 28-yard footrace by Renner down the Norfolk Catholic sideline, and Frederick tracking down a low snap that looked like a broken play, only to find Owen Lade wide open in the end zone that gave the Braves all the momentum heading into halftime.
As if that wasn't enough, Battle Creek scored on back-to-back possessions in the second half, too.
The first one was aided when a punt struck a Norfolk Catholic player and was recovered at the 24. More than 2½ minutes later, Mason Mink drilled a 30-yard field goal after the Braves sputtered with three straight incomplete passes.
“We've got to work on improving in all aspects of the game,” Bellar said.
The Braves didn't mess around for the knockout blow. They drove for 19 plays and 71 yards to eat 9:10 of the clock, and the 11th rush of the drive by Renner was a 4-yard touchdown.
“Our line came back from the series before and said, 'Let's run the ball, let's get after them' and we did. They rose to the challenge,” Carlson said.
Up next for Battle Creek is a trip to Hartington Cedar Catholic, a de facto district championship game with the only two unbeatens left in Class C2-5 play.
“It really gives us a lot of momentum going on in our season, and we're just going for that district champion spot,” Renner said.
NC (1-6) 0 0 0 0 — 0
BC (6-1) 6 14 3 7 — 30
BC: Reece Bode 19 run (PAT failed), 0:07.
BC: Kadin Renner 28 run (Mason Mink kick), 7:40.
BC: Owen Lade 16 pass from Payton Frederick (Mink kick), 0:31.
BC: Mink 30 field goal, 2:03.
BC: Renner 4 run (Mink kick), 3:23.