NEW CARLISLE — With New Prairie down three points and less than a minute left, quarterback Chase Ketterer didn't want his name called.
Despite the fact he already converted a pair of fourth downs earlier that drive, the Cougars captain knew his team had to do something other than give him the ball on a game-deciding fourth-and-1 on the Penn 5-yard line.
Head coach Russ Radtke called a timeout to give his players ample time to figure out the perfect play, and Ketterer knew exactly what to do.
"Give me (Adam) Borror in there," Ketterer said to his coaches. "Let him run the ball."
Borror, a sophomore offensive lineman listed at 255 pounds — a number that his teammates say might not be quite high enough — slid back from his position at right guard to fullback. He crouched down into a three-point stance, ready to make the most of a long-awaited opportunity to run the football.
As soon as Ketterer turned over his left shoulder to hand Borror the ball, the rumbling lineman-turned-fullback covered it up with both hands and churned his legs. He made his way not only past the first-down marker, but past the goal line and into the end zone to help New Prairie regain a 21-17 lead with 45 seconds left.
Borror, amped up as ever, ran over to his quarterback and gave him a massive, celebratory head-bump.
"We practiced that play this season, but I never imagined it would happen this game, at that time," Borror said. "I was sitting there after they called the play and I was like, 'I've got to do this one for the seniors.' My brother's a senior, so I had the mindset that I had to punch it in. I had to get the job done. Then once I scored, man, I felt like I was on cloud nine for a minute. It was crazy."
As the final seconds ticked off the clock on Penn's ensuing drive, the Cougars batted down a last-effort heave to the end zone, clinching what could very well be the biggest regular-season win in school history.
Players ripped their helmets off and threw them in the air. The students, dressed in all white, jumped up and down in an overjoyed stupor. Parents and other fans in the stands hugged one another in exaltation.
"I'm not gonna lie, I definitely shed a tear or two there," said associate head coach Bill Gumm. "I'm so happy for our kids. They work so hard every day, and they deserve every bit of this. We really proved a lot tonight. We proved we belong at the top and that from now on, New Prairie has to be taken very seriously."
As Gumm and his players entered the locker room, Wes Walker's hit song, "Jordan Belfort," the Cougars' go-to celebration song, blared through the locker room speakers. Some then headed out to their cars in the parking lot. But they couldn't just head right on home, though, like it was any other game. They ripped their shirts off over their heads, twirled them around and danced to Avicii's "Levels" in the brisk, 50-degree weather.
It didn't matter. The celebrations had just begun, and for good reason.
Penn's freshman class alone has more kids in it than all of New Prairie, and nearly as many as New Carlisle itself. But the Cougars accomplished what many would've thought to be unthinkable years ago. Little ol' New Prairie just took down a 6A powerhouse Kingsmen team that hadn't lost a Northern Indiana Conference game to anyone not named Mishawaka since 1985. That is, until they came across this 2019 Cougars team.
A magical season that has New Prairie ranked first in the state in 4A continues with yet another late comeback against one of Indiana's premiere programs. Mishawaka learned about the Cougars' resiliency two weeks ago, and on Friday night, it was Penn's turn.
"Tonight felt like a high-level playoff game," Ketterer said. "We stayed mentally tough the whole game. We didn't get down. We just kept battling. This just shows everyone what we're made of. Credit to our defense tonight, though. They were getting it done all night when our offense really couldn't get much done — especially in the first half. We wouldn't have been in the game if it wasn't for them."
Ketterer isn't wrong by any means. The Cougars' typically-potent offense was stifled most of the game, but clutch stops by the defense kept them in it all game long.
Following a three-and-out by Ketterer's unit to start the game, the defense made things happen right away, jumping on a fumble on Penn's first play from scrimamge. New Prairie scored on the ensuing drive to take the first lead of the ballgame. That lead would not have remained intact, though, if it weren't for multiple fourth-down stops in the red zone with the Kingsmen threatening.
This brought about flashbacks from the Cougars' win against Mishawaka, where they came up with a monumental stop on a two-point conversion that would have won the Cavemen the ballgame. New Prairie is highly regarded for its electric rushing attack led by Ketterer and a 1,500-plus-pound offensive line, but it's the players on the other side of the ball that have won the Cougars its two biggest games of the season.
As for how the players will remember Friday night, Ketterer, simply, said it best.
"This was the craziest, most intense game I've ever been a part of," he said. "It's something I'm going to remember for the rest of my life."