Some teams have a stable of running backs.
Battle Creek has that, but the Braves also have a stable of linemen, and that combination propelled 3-1 Battle Creek — Class C2’s 10th-ranked team — to a decisive 30-0 win over Class C1 O’Neill (now 1-3).
In the two-week absence of senior workhorse Dylan Mettler — who is projected by Coach Andrew Carlson to return to action next week — Battle Creek has turned over ball-carrying duties to a trio of hard-running young backs, including junior Reece Bode, senior Kadin Renner and sophomore fullback Rich Brauer.
“We didn’t have Dylan last week against Centennial, but we’re fortunate we have some good depth at that position,” Carlson said. “We believe in those guys, and our line did a great job of creating some seams for them to hit, and the backs hit them hard.”
That offensive line consists of seniors Luke Strueve (left tackle), Wyatt Schmitt (left guard), Gannon Easland (center), Colby Hamilton (right guard) and Kolby Heller (right tackle) — but Carlson added that the Braves “sub in at least three other linemen that are key contributors,” so he considers the unit to be a “group effort,” which also includes the work of tight ends Slate Kraft, Mason Mink and Vaughn Finkral.
“Our line deserves a lot of credit. The last couple weeks, we’ve kind of turned into more of an I-formation team and are really getting after people,” Carlson said. “A lot of that is due to them. They’re doing a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Battle Creek’s rushing offense against O’Neill totaled 230 yards, with Bode carrying the ball 21 times for 120 yards — including a 41-yard touchdown run — while Renner added 64 yards on 16 carries, with touchdowns of 3 and 4 yards. Brauer contributed 37 yards on five tries.
The Braves’ line also provided quarterback Payton Frederick with the time necessary to complete seven of 10 passes for another 68 yards, with Chase Oltmanns grabbing two receptions for 40 yards.
Altogether, Battle Creek’s offensive effort helped the Braves maintain possession of the ball, picking up 16 first downs while limiting O’Neill to just five.
One of those first downs came on fourth down — a 3-yard run by Renner that picked up the necessary yardage with just inches to spare — to keep a 67-yard second-quarter drive going, leading to Battle Creek’s first touchdown on a 3-yard Renner plunge and a 10-0 Braves lead.
After holding O’Neill to a three-and-out, Battle Creek marched 77 yards, picking up a fourth-and-2 and also a third-and-5, en route to Frederick’s 8-yard touchdown romp that put the Braves up 16-0 at halftime.
To that point, Battle Creek’s defense had limited the Eagles to just 20 rushing yards and 20 passing yards, and O’Neill added just 29 more yards on the ground in the second half, along with 29 more yards in the air — ending the game with 98 yards of total offense.
Battle Creek’s pass rush harassed and hurried Eagles quarterback Mason Walsh, who managed to complete 7 of 16 passes. Finkral contributed a tackle-for-loss, while Schmitt, Hamilton, and Heller all recorded sacks and the secondary blanketed Eagles receivers downfield.
“I’m really pleased with our defense as a whole,” Carlson said. “They’re really coming into their own and getting confidence in what we want them to do. Every level of that unit is contributing, making plays and picking the next guy up.”
Renner’s second touchdown of 4 yards capped an 81-yard Battle Creek drive to end the third quarter. A key play in that possession was a 17-yard pass from Frederick to Mink that provided a first-and-goal from the 8 as the Braves increased their lead to 23-0.
Bode established the final score of 30-0 with a 41-yard jaunt, breaking loose on the first play following an O’Neill punt with just under three minutes remaining in the game.
O’Neill (1-3) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Battle Creek (3-1) 3 13 7 7 — 30
BC: Mason Mink 22 yard field goal, 3:35.
BC: Kadin Renner 3 run (Mink kick), 7:16.
BC: Payton Frederick 8 run (kick failed), :44.
BC: Renner 4 run (Mink kick), :56.
BC: Reece Bode 41 run (Mink kick), 2:55.