NEW CARLISLE - If there was a script for a perfect championship game Plymouth and New Prairie played it out on Friday, they only thing that could have been better for Rockie fans would have been a happy ending at they fell to the Cougars by a 35-27 final.
Facing a team that was the powerhouse they were billed to be, the Rockies matched New Prairie blow for blow and came just short of the knock out in the third quarter.
"I think Joe was long on some throws early," said Plymouth coach John Barron. "But we settled in and got the score early and I think it showed them that we were here for a dog fight."
"I'm proud of our kids," he said. "We just kept battling on both sides of the ball."
Plymouth got the opening kick off and Seth Rundell set the tone immediately with a big return that put the Rockies in great field position, and after a couple of sputtering plays, hit the home run and put up a score just minutes into the game.
New Prairie took their first possession and methodically worked it down the field three yards at a time to bang home a three-yard run for a score to tie it.
That's where it stayed until the second quarter when once again the Blake Ketterer methodically led another New Prairie drive and took it over from three yards out to take the lead.
On a night of heroes for Plymouth the defense came up big when they stopped another methodical New Prairie drive, forcing a turnover with Nick Craft falling on a fumble in Cougar territory.
Plymouth took over and a penalty and a big loss put them at second and very long and a 25 yard run from Ivan Winkle set them up for a big score to tie with just :32 to play in the half.
Out of the break, another big special teams play — this one a 70-yard kickoff return to start the third quarter by Wyatt Kmiecik — gave New Prairie first and goal to start the half.
Less than two minutes into the third quarter the Cougars had the lead back.
"We had people there he just spun out of a couple of arm tackles," said Barron. "I can't say enough about our kids and our coaches. We felt like we had a good game plan We didn't execute on certain plays. To come over here and battle the elements and to battle this team the way we did. I'm so proud of our guys."
The game plan was good enough for the Rockies gain momentum and tie on their ensuing possession of the quarter and then the electrifying Rundell would provide another spark with a "strip six", literally running past ball carrier Kmiecik and taking the ball from his arms and easily outrunning the field to the end zone. The extra point however failed.
Plymouth appeared to be headed for a big score to give them a two score lead when a penalty stalled the drive and the Cougars took advantage to pull ahead by the distance of an extra point.
The Rockies hung in when New Prairie marched down the field again, looking to go up by two scores and once again the defense was the hero.
With first and goal at the three, the Rockies held and got the ball back at the one still trailing by just one.
New Prarie would hold serve themselves and a big run by Ketterer would punch it in for what would be the final blow.
"They are good," said Barron. "Time will tell how far they go in the tournament, but that may have been the best two teams in 4A, I can't credit our kids enough for how hard they played, how they trusted one another and trusted the coaches and were all in all year."
The Rockies end their season at 9-3. New Prairie will travel to Hobart for the regional next week.
•NEW PRAIRIE 35, PLYMOUTH 27
at New Prairie
Plymouth 7 7 13 0 - 27
New Prairie 7 7 14 7 - 35
10:31 PLYM - Garr Schrameyer 23 yd pass from Joe Barron (Adrian Cardona kick).
04:03 NPRA - Mays 3 yd run (Szymanski kick).
04:24 NPRA - Ketterer 5 yd run (Szymanski kick).
00:32 PLYM - Joe Barron 5 yd run (Adrian Cardona kick).
10:51 NPRA - Ketterer 3 yd run (Szymanski kick).
08:25 PLYM - Jake Reichard 10 yd pass from Joe Barron (Adrian Cardona kick).
07:44 PLYM - Seth Rundell 70 yd fumble recovery (Adrian Cardona kick blockd).
02:06 NPRA - Ketterer 28 yd run (Szymanski kick), 6-47 2:45, PLYM 27 - NPRA 28
04:37 NPRA - Ketterer 2 yd run (Szymanski kick)
RUSHING: Plymouth-Joe Barron 6-32; Ivan Winkle 10-12; Seth Rundell 1-minus 6.
New Prairie-Ketterer 46-279; Mays 17-96; Kmiecik 4-27.
PASSING: Plymouth-Joe Barron 12-36-0-154. New Prairie-Ketterer 3-4-0-11.
RECEIVING: Plymouth-Jake Reichard 6-72; Seth Rundell 3-29; Ivan Winkle 1-23;
Garr Schrameyer 1-23; Joe Styers 1-7. New Prairie-Adams 2-1; Skornog 1-10.
INTERCEPTIONS: Plymouth-None. New Prairie-None.
FUMBLES: Plymouth-None. New Prairie-Mays 1-1; Ketterer 1-1; Kmiecik 1-0