ELKHART — Central couldn’t be accused of not being eager on defense Friday night.
If anything, the Blue Blazers were too eager. And South Bend Adams converted that eagerness into an effective fourth-down offense.
A fourth-down encroachment penalty — the third one of the evening that resulted in an Eagle first down — kept alive what proved the game-winning drive as Adams held off the Blazers 21-17 in Northern Indiana Conference football at Rice Field.
“They’re trying to get us to jump offsides, and we jump offsides,” Central coach Levon Johnson lamented. “That’s a lack of discipline, and we have to fix that.”
The soaring Eagles improved to 7-1 on the field (they did have to forfeit two early season non-league wins due to use of an ineligible player) and to 4-1 in the conference, meaning they would capture a share of the league title with an upset in next Friday’s season finale at front-running Penn.
The Blazers dropped to 4-4 overall, 2-3 in the NIC.
“Obviously we threw the ball well and (receiver Spencer Schnell) played well again, but I’d have to dig deep, because this one really (stings),” Johnson said of what positives he could glean from a four-point loss to a 7-1 club. “I’m thinking about the things we have to clean up.”
Schnell, coming off record-setting, video-game-like numbers of 18 receptions and 303 yards to go with three touchdowns a week earlier in a 66-51 loss at Fort Wayne Snider, added 13 catches for 153 yards and two TDs against Adams.
And quarterback Nick Faus completed 21-of-30 passes for 225 yards a week after going 37-of-52 for 457.
The Eagles went up 21-10 with 8:22 on an 80-yard drive that was kept alive by the aforementioned penalty.
Central closed to 21-17 just seconds later thanks to Blake Faus’ 37-yard kick return followed by Nick Faus’ 42-yard TD bomb to Schnell.
After that, though, still more penalties haunted the Blazers, including a personal foul that cost them 15 yards and put them on their own 18 to start what proved their final possession, an illegal procedure that turned a fourth-and-4 into a fourth-and-9, leading to a punt, and a face-mask call.
Adams’ Gavin Miller rushed for 181 yards on 36 carries and one of his team’s three TDs.
SB Adams 21, Central 17
Scoring by Quarters
Adams 8 7 0 6 — 21
Central 0 10 0 7 — 17
School — Scoring Play
A — Shaquille Vann 5 run; Vann pass from Gavin Miller, 4:49.
A — Miller 7 run; Andrew Carrico kick, 11:52.
C — Spencer Schnell 6 pass from Nick Faus; Matt Eppers kick, 8:32.
C — Eppers 37 field goal, 0:00.
A — Frank Karczewski 2 run; run failed, 8:22.
C — Schnell 42 pass from N. Faus, 8:07.
Officials: Drew Danik, Todd Baum, Adam Beery, Bill Gallippo, Ken Van Nevel.
Team Statistics Ad Ce
Net yards rushing 276 20
Net yards passing 84 225
Total Yards 360 245
First Downs 21 13
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-0
Penalties 6-43 7-48
Adams: Rushing — Gavin Miller 36-181, Shaquille Vann 9-41, Jalen White 7-36. Passing — Frank Karczewski 6-15-84 (0 int). Receiving — Stevie Thomas 1-41, Matt Pinter 1-19, White 1-11, Miller 2-11.
Central: Rushing — Akeem Purnell 11-37. Passing — Nick Faus 21-30-225 (0 int.). Receiving — Spencer Schnell 13-153, Blake Faus 4-44, Tanner Tully 2-14, John Stahl 1-8, Larry Gates 1-6.