After a week of grief and remembrance, McCutcheon’s football team opened its season with a surge of emotion.
Yet the Mavericks could not sustain the momentum created in the first five minutes of Saturday’s season opener against Brownsburg. While McCutcheon struggled offensively, the Bulldogs wore down an overworked Maverick defense in a 36-9 victory at Ellison Stadium.
“I think our defense is really strong this year and we can do a lot, it’s just that the offense needs to get up and go,” said McCutcheon junior linebacker Caleb Harper. “We have the skill and we have the people to do it, we just need to get it done.”
The Hoosier Crossroads Conference game was moved from Friday night to Saturday so McCutcheon could focus on services for Tammie Beeker. The wife of McCutcheon principal John Beeker, mother of three Tippecanoe School Corp. students, including senior football player Jack, and teacher at Southwestern Middle School died last Sunday.
The Mavericks said they tried to support the family and focus on Saturday’s game.
“I’ve been coaching 28 years and I’ve never been through this before,” McCutcheon coach Ken Frauhiger said. “I don’t know if we did it right, I don’t know if we did it wrong. We did the best we could with the people we had and tried to honor Jack and Mr. Beeker and Jade and Julia the best we could. He’s a great man, and it’s just not fair.”
Nate Deno roused the McCutcheon crowd by returning the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Their enthusiasm grew after the Mavericks forced a three-and-out on Brownsburg’s first possession.
But McCutcheon’s first offensive series also lasted just three plays, which was the beginning of a trend. The Mavericks went three-and-out on five of their six first-half possessions, and their only two first downs came on a series that ended with a blocked field goal. Brownsburg held McCutcheon without a first down for the first 10 minutes of the second half as well, building a 26-7 lead through three quarters.
Thanks in part to four sacks of quarterback Matt Marencik, McCutcheon netted minus-17 yards on 20 carries. Facing no ground threat, Brownsburg’s defense could more aggressively defend the pass, and the Bulldogs picked Marencik off three times in the second half.
“We have nine out of 11 amazing (returning) starters, so that’s always a plus,” Brownsburg junior linebacker Jacob Lambert said. “They’re all great players and they’re like a family to me. We just stuck together and they couldn’t do anything to us.”
Deno’s kickoff return was the first of many big special teams plays Saturday. Brownsburg senior Chase Dutra, an Indiana recruit, returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter. Bulldogs kicker Brandon Dowers kicked field goals of 33, 27 and 43 yards.
Dutra and Toks Akinribade combined to rush for 146 yards on 31 carries as Brownsburg ran 71 plays, compared to McCutcheon’s 46.
“We’ve got to work harder on the offensive side to keep our defense off the field,” said Deno, who totaled 69 yards on 11 offensive touches.