MISHAWAKA — With his team down a point and just half of the fourth quarter to go in Friday's 28-27 win over Mishawaka, New Prairie quarterback Chase Ketterer handled a snap on the Cougars' second play of the entire second half.
Mishawaka scored a touchdown following a laborious drive to start the third quarter, then recovered an onside kick to maintain possession. Its triple-option offense chewed even more clock on its second drive, but a fourth-down stop by New Prairie forced a turnover on downs.
The Cougars wasted no time getting those points back, though, courtesy of a highlight-reel play by Ketterer that had everyone in attendance awestruck. From his own 38-yard-line, Ketterer saw a hole up the middle of the defense, but a defender met him just past the first down marker.
"We talked (at halftime) about how they kept going low at my legs all game," Ketterer said. "So I thought I had a good chance of doing this at some point."
Instead of attempting to run through the defender, Ketterer leaped over him, and with no hesitation, sprinted past the remaining Cavemen defenders for a touchdown on New Prairie's opening drive of the second half, a minute into the fourth quarter.
So when the Cougars' second play of the half began, nobody thought what Ketterer just accomplished could be topped. But to no New Prairie fans' surprise, he wowed the crowd once again.
Ketterer took the snap, once again finding a gaping hole in the middle of the Mishawaka defense. This time, nobody stood in his way as a human hurdle. Ketterer used his best asset in his speed to hit the hole hard and fast, out-racing all 11 Cavemen defenders for a 75-yard, game-breaking touchdown to give his team a 26-21 lead.
"They kept lining up their defensive tackles outside our guards," Ketterer said. "So that left a huge hole in the middle of their defense for me to run through."
The senior captain took no time celebrating his fourth touchdown of the game though. He still needed two more points to give his team a more comfortable seven-point lead. A quick play-action, roll-out play found Taylor Adams in the corner of the end zone for two points, 28-21.
But six minutes and some change remained, and a Mishawaka offense that hadn't punted all night had ample time to drive down the field. That's just what it did, scoring on a 47-yard passing play to Donovan Snyder, who carried the ball 35 times for 129 yards on the night.
At this point, the Cavemen had a decision to make: tie the game and give Ketterer and the explosive Cougars' offense the ball with just over two minutes left, or go for two and bank on a stop to clinch a win. With a stop needed either way, why not go for the victory?
New Prairie's defense struggled all game long against Mishawaka's triple-option offense, but stepped up when it needed to. The Cougars immediately got into the pocket on a roll-out play, forcing quarterback Justin Fisher to throw a ball into the ground, sealing a New Prairie victory.
"We kind of expected a roll-out type of play there," said NP coach Russ Radtke. "That's what they did, and I'm really proud of how our defense stepped up there."
Radtke and his coaching staff knew the game meant a little more than usual, implementing longer film sessions and practices for their team. The intensity level throughout practice was exponentially higher than the four weeks prior, as the Cougars wanted some revenge over one of their rivals.
They avenged a tough loss last season with the victory, but it could very well be the last time these two teams ever play one another. Mishawaka got bumped up to Class 5A after an impressive couple years and will make the transition into a new conference next season.
"It's too bad we won't be able to play them anymore," Radtke said. "You learn a lot from games with teams of their caliber. I wish we could play them every week."
Friday's contest was as fitting a way to end a competitive, respectful rivalry between successful programs; and for the sake of Cavemen and Cougars' fans, hopefully it won't be the final time they square off.
New Prairie 28, Mishawaka 27
Chase Ketterer scored all four Cougars touchdowns.