SOUTH BEND – It wasn’t a typical Saturday for Chase Ketterer.
The New Prairie senior signal-caller’s day started at 10:30 a.m., when he headed to Notre Dame, which invited him and sophomore lineman Hunter Whitenack to the game against Virginia. While there, they toured facilities and met with a few players with Ketterer calling it “an awesome experience."
Under normal circumstances, he would’ve been able to stay for the game, but he had one of his own to get to with Friday’s contest against South Bend Adams postponed by severe thunderstorms.
Ketterer and the newly-minted No. 1 team in the Associated Press Class 4A poll left no doubt, running for 388 yards in a 55-14 rout at TCU School Field.
While N.P. was undefeated and playing a winless team, Ketterer said there was no looking ahead to Penn.
“We wanted to stay focused, you can never underestimate a team,” he said. “When you go against a team that’s 0-and-5 and you go out and play slow then that’s when you’re gonna get injured and not gonna do well. This was a good game for us to stay mentally focused.
“We’re always confident. Being No. 1-ranked, we wanna hold on to that and hopefully we held it (Saturday). Going against Penn will be a tough game, but we’ll be ready for it.”
Ketterer ran 15 times for 153 yards and four touchdowns, three of those coming in the first half. He was also 4-for-7 for 123 yards passing, tossing a 68-yard TD to Taylor Adams and an 11-yarder to Wyatt Kmiecik.
“Our linemen are just so agile and so big at the same time and that really helps us on our traps,” Ketterer said. “The run game is so much easier when you have big guys like that can move. When the run was working we were able to lull them to sleep and we were able to throw it. It felt good to hit a few big ones.”
While Ketterer did the brunt of the ground damage in the first half, it was Chris Mays’ turn in the second. The senior totaled 195 yards on 20 carries and scored twice – quite the bounce-back after Mishawaka held him to 22 yards on eight carries.
“Last week was not good at all, no,” Mays said. “(Mishawaka) just had everything contained very well, not a lot of running room. I think that put in a fire in me though, being shut down like that and having the opportunity to play well tonight.
“It really came down to the line making blocks and then just me and Chase making reads on the field that they left available for us. I think this was the kind of game to get back on track for Penn.”
Defensively, the Cougars (6-0) sacked Adams QB and Virginia commit Ira Armstead nine times, holding him to 16-of-35 passing with interceptions by Ian Skornog and Kmiecik.
“We work a lot on our defense because we know we have a really good offense,” New Prairie junior defensive end Jake Weinberg said. “Our offense gives us a good, realistic look with having Chase and them running good, hard plays at us. We worked a lot with them on just not letting them get outside."
New Prairie consistently contained Armstead, a gifted athlete at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. While he did break runs for 53 and 26 yards, he still totaled only 34 due to the sacks.
“I think we did a pretty good job containing,” Weinberg said. “We had a few plays we slipped up on, but made adjustments quick. Me and my brother (Koley) contained so that was allowing the linebackers to get inside. (Brandon) Kasinger had a great game and helped us a lot with the win.”
Weinberg had three sacks with Kasinger adding 2.5, splitting one with Hunter Hullinger. Adams and Blake Kessler added one each.
“You can only put so much pressure on him,” New Prairie coach Russ Radtke said. “When he’s scooting around and gets the corner on you, we don’t have the fastest defensive ends in the world, so we gotta be able to set and wait. That’s kind of hard for young kids to do sometimes because they think they gotta go in there and get him, when that’s actually the worst thing you can do because he’s just gonna juke and get outside.”
Radtke felt his team needed a little adjustment to playing on Saturday, but settled in.
“We have to realize our offense carries us,” he said. “Our offense did a good job and that’s a great QB and we put pressure on him. We didn’t have to punt all day and we need to keep those types of things going because it’ll feed off into our defense.
“The DBs got some interceptions when we had to have them and those were very important for us to gain possession and make sure we remain in control.”
Attention now turns to Penn, who defeated NP 35-7 in 2018.
“They’re coming to our place and we’re looking for the opportunity to play a great team,” Radtke said. “The whole goal, objective-wise with the playoffs, is why we like our schedule. Playing against big teams like this, the 5As and 6As, it gets us ready for 4A football.”
Sidney Jefferies had six catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns for the Eagles (0-6).
New Prairie 55, South Bend Adams 14
The Cougars piled up 388 rushing yards.