NEW CARLISLE — Early in the second quarter and leading by just a touchdown, New Prairie's defense found itself backed up to its own 1 yard line on first and goal. The 59ers were pounding the ball on the ground all drive long, and a touchdown to tie the game seemed imminent.
Andrean gave the ball to its thick 215-pound fullback, Rob Gonzalez, on a run between the left guard and tackle.
In came a surging outside linebacker in Brandon Kasinger, hitting the hole that the Andrean offensive line opened up for Gonzalez. Kasinger barged in low and with force, stood up and drove back the hefty Gonzalez for a loss of a yard.
A high snap and one-yard rush followed Kasinger's goal line stop, allowing the 59ers to just three points on the possession to preserve the Cougars' lead.
Kasinger's name was hollered throughout the stadium by the New Prairie announcer all night long, racking up 11 tackles on the night to lead the team. He even bested an impressive game against La Porte — during which he had seven first half tackles and a defensive player of the game nod — by tallying eight tackles in the first half of Friday night's 33-10 home win over Andrean.
"We really practiced hard this week, preparing for their offense" Kasinger said. "I knew I had a lot of backup, though. I knew if I did my job, the job was going to be done behind me."
In a game that saw a minimal amount of pass attempts throughout, making stops in key situations against each team's talented backfield was always going to be the difference.
Kasinger and the New Prairie defense gave up a handful of big plays to Andrean star running back River Walsh, but stepped up when necessary. Aside from those long gains, the Cougars' defense picked up on the run rather quickly, stacking the box and swarming Walsh for short gains constantly.
"Our guys were able to come back from making a few mistakes," said head coach Russ Radtke. "Our defense is young, we only have two or three seniors on it, but the way they attack and get after it is huge. When they're big and strong, you have to be quicker and get to where they're going to be. It's exciting to see how quick the kids are adapting in just three games. Usually it takes a whole season to get those underclassmen to play this kind of football."
A few key stops in the second half gave the New Prairie offense a chance to drive and put the game out of reach in the third quarter, and it did just that. A 48-yard Chase Ketterer touchdown run and a long drive capped off with a Chris Mays score on the ground all but put this one out of reach, giving the Cougars a 26-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The double-dose of Ketterer and Mays proved too difficult to stop for the 59ers, as the two combined for 330 yards rushing on 37 carries (8.9 yards per carry) and five touchdowns.
"This is the first time our starters have had to play a full four quarters," Radtke said. "Tonight was a test. The result going in is that one team is going to win and the other is going to learn a heck of a lot. If we didn't play Andrean, we wouldn't have gotten any better, had we played other opponents that wouldn't have been as challenging."
New Prairie (3-0) has its first Northern Indiana Conference test this week, hosting South Bend St. Joseph at 6:30 p.m. for homecoming.
New Prairie 33, Andrean 10
Chase Ketterer and Chris Mays combined for 330 yards rushing.