(South Bend, IN) - Two 3-1 teams, New Prairie and South Bend St. Joseph, met Friday night, vying for the top spot in the NIC-North. After dropping their season openers, each team had won three in a row coming into the night, which was Homecoming at Father Bly Field.
New Prairie’s defense was tested early and often. St. Joe’s returned the opening kickoff 40 yards, then had their way with the Cougar secondary, moving the ball easily through the air. The Indians scored quickly, but missed an extra point. New Prairie responded with a dominant running game. A long run by senior quarterback Marshall Kmieciek plus a St. Joe penalty put the Cougars at the Indians’ 25. A few plays later, a four-yard touchdown run by senior Brock Sinka tied the game.
St. Joe’s kept the air attack on, scoring another passing touchdown, but the extra point was blocked by senior lineman Dylan Wilson. New Prairie’s defense stiffened in the second quarter. Meanwhile Kmiecik broke free for touchdown runs of 63 and 42 yards to give the Cougars a 10-point lead at halftime.
Kmiecik’s otherwise stellar night was marred by a fumble on the first play of the second half. St. Joe’s capitalized with a 25-yard touchdown pass. A subsequent New Prairie drive stalled but was saved by an Indians roughing the kicker penalty. Kmiecik ran for a 3-yard score to put the Cougars back up by 10.
New Prairie’s bend-don’t-break defense gave up a long drive by St. Joseph early in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars were able to make a goal-line stand and recovered a fumbled snap exchange. The Indians pulled to within three with a subsequent scoring drive, but the Cougars were able to control the ball for nearly six minutes with seven straight running plays. The Indians received a punt with two seconds left in the game. On the last play, St. Joseph needed a Hail Mary, but their prayers weren’t answered. Final score: 29-26.
St. Joe's tandem of quarterback Alex Ortiz and wide receiver Hayden Miller connected for four touchdowns. Kmiecik countered with 223 rushing yards on 17 carries. He also completed all three of his pass attempts for 27 yards. The difference in the game was kicking. St. Joseph failed on two PATs. New Prairie made good on a two-point conversion, and senior kicker Owen Chalik made all three of his extra points attempts.
New Prairie’s defense kept St. Joe’s offense one-dimensional, allowing only 32 rushing yards. Junior Beau Kmiecik led Cougar tacklers with seven. Junior Brock Barcivic broke up two passes and recovered two fumbles.
New Prairie will return to South Bend next Friday to face John Adams (1-4).