NEW CARLISLE — Two Plymouth touchdowns in a span of three third-quarter plays flipped the scoreboard and the momentum from New Prairie to the Rockies in Friday's Class 4A Sectional 18 championship, zapping the energy out of the home crowd at a chilly Amzie Miller Field.
On another night of prolific running by quarterback Chase Ketterer, it would be the defense that would re-energize the Cougars.
A pair of huge short-yardage stops by Taylor Adams and Blake Kessler on Plymouth running back Ivan Winkle near midfield turned the ball over on downs to New Prairie, which reclaimed the lead about three minutes later on a Ketterer 28-yard run and Nolan Szymanski kick a few minutes later.
A revitalized defense blanked Joe Barron and the prolific Rockies passing attack the rest of the way and Ketterer's fourth score, a 2-yarder with 4:37 left, sealed a 35-27 Cougars victory.
"That play changed everything for us," said the tireless Ketterer, who also anchored a busy secondary that withstood 33 Barron passes. "Those kind of stops fire a team up, and it got us going from then on."
It was another performance for the two-way star who ran for 286 yards on a whopping 46 carries, spurring an attack that amassed 391 yards on the ground and dominated possession, wearing down the Plymouth defense.
"We knew in the second quarter they were getting a little winded toward the end," Adams said.
Despite the huge numbers, it wasn't a perfect night for the Cougars offense. It lost two fumbles, including one by Chris Mays that was returned 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown by Seth Rundell. NP also was stopped on downs at the Plymouth 1 in the fourth quarter.
"You know, we really didn't play our best game out there today," Radtke said. "We turned the ball over, couldn't score from the 1. There were a lot of things we'll look back on and fix going forward. It wasn't our best win, but in the playoffs, a win is a win. We'll take it any way we can get."
It was a battle from the beginning as Barron and the Rockies struck inside the first two minutes on a 23-yard toss to Garrett Schrameyer. NP responded with a protracted drive, all on the ground, capped by a Mays TD from three yards.
The Cougars (11-1) claimed their first lead on a Kettrerer run of five yards at 4:24 of the second quarter, but his fumble set the stage for a game-tying Rockies drive punctuated by a five-yard Barron keeper in the final minute.
New Prairie got a jolt of energy to start the second half when return man Wyatt Kmiecik took the kickoff 74 yards. Three plays later, Ketterer ran it in from three yards out and the Cougars were back in front 21-14.
The pendulum swing back to Plymouth, which pulled even again on a nine-yard Barron throw to Jake Reichard.
A blocked extra point after the fumble return kept the margin at six (27-21).
"We had some big tackles for some big losses, but we also did some clueless things," Radtke said. "I've been coaching teenagers 48 years and I never know what they're going to do. But we showed some resiliency to do some big things at big times."
New Prairie will travel to Hobart Friday to take on the Brickies in the regional — the same spot in the playoffs where the Cougars were eliminated in 2017.
"It feels so much better than I could have even imagined," sophomore right tackle Hunter Whitenack said of the sectional title. "We haven't won one since I've been here, so this is a really cool thing to be a part of. It just makes me and the rest of us even hungrier though, now that we know how this feels."
The win gave Radtke 368 career victories — good for a tie with former Jasper coach Jerry Brewer for second all time in Indiana.
"Jerry wore a hat like "Bear Bryant," Radtke said. "I have a lot of respect for him. We'd talk at clinics all the time. I'm not out for that situation. Those accomplishments come from a lot of different scenarios. I'm thankful for all the kids along the way who made it possible."
-- Jim Peters contributed to this story.
Class 4A Sectional 18
New Prairie 35, Plymouth 27
The Cougars' Chase Ketterer rushed 46 times for 286 yards and four touchdowns.