Bair becoming Jasper extraordinaireSeptember 29, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Opposing quarterbacks who don't get a good throw off against Jasper might want to hope the football doesn't wind up in Bralen Bair's hands.
The junior for the Class 4A-No. 3 Wildcats is balling out in the secondary in his first year on the varsity squad, and while Jasper's front might get good pressure on the quarterback, not everybody is able to run an interception for a touchdown — especially three of them in his team's first six games.
The most recent instance occurred Sept. 24 against Evansville Central. Evansville Central was driving, trying to get on the board when Jasper held a 28-0 lead, only for Bair to get his hands on the ball and run it back to extend his team's lead.
His other two pick sixes came in a 42-21 win Sept. 3 against Evansville Reitz. All three of them have come on his home field of Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium.
"My last one, I ran straight in there and seeing (the student section) all excited - it's just the best feeling in the world, really," Bair said.
"I think any time you can get a turnover defensively, you gain momentum," Wildcats coach Tony Lewis said. "Now, add in a score off the defense, and that's a huge momentum shift."
Bair could not have imagined at the beginning of his sophomore year that he would be doing this. He thought his football playing days were behind him from his time in middle school, and he opted not to come out his freshman year.
"I thought I was too small," he said. "I wasn't really the football type."
Lewis asked him to come out for football, though, at the beginning of his sophomore year, and he's now reaping the rewards of being a varsity defensive back after a year of playing junior varsity.
"He just said that I would get time and I would be able to show my skills and what I can do in my athletic ability," he said. "So, I was big on that. I wanted to be able to come out and play."
Bair is able to time his jumps perfectly through a lot of reps in practice, and described what he sees running back an interception.
"I turn to see who's around me, and I just see my whole team blocking everybody pretty much," he said. "I pick a side, and sprint as fast as I can. Somehow, most of the time, it ends up in the end zone."
Lewis credited his defense's pressure on the quarterback for helping put Bair in these situations, but he also knows what Bair brings to the table.
"He's athletic, he's pretty quick, he has a lot of moxie to him," Lewis said. "He wants to cover good receivers and he feels like he has a chance to be successful."
Bair credits getting his athletic ability from his father, Derrick — a 1991 Northeast Dubois graduate who competed in baseball, basketball and tennis. Bralen also runs track in the spring — competing in the 100m dash and the long jump. Derrick thinks he was a good athlete, though he believes Bralen is better — even though his son doesn’t even know how good he is.
Not every track athlete is a success on the football field, but Bralen makes it work.
"I put my mind to it, and I see track as a helping tool to me in football, and football as a helping tool to me in track," Bralen said. "They both help out each other, I think."
Bralen made it a point that he studies opposing quarterbacks often, and this Friday, he'll have to deal with Castle junior Cam Tilly, whom Lewis hailed as somebody who's been throwing the ball well, but if the ball comes Bralen's way, he knows he'll be ready.
And he has an incentive to do it again on Friday. If the defense scores and Jasper wins, it's free steaks for the Wildcats. He'll make sure to put some ketchup and A1 sauce on his. They're donated by members of the community — because this season, when Bralen eats, Bralen eats.
"It's just steak and potato and mac and cheese," he said. "We all enjoyed it in the locker room."
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