ELKHART — Jimtown football coach Mike Campbell praised his defense for playing one of its best halves of football this season Friday against New Prairie.
Unfortunately, that half came after the Cougars had raced to a 21-0 halftime lead on their way to a 28-6 victory over the Jimmies at Knepp Field, dropping Jimtown's record to 5-4 heading into the Class 3A tournament beginning next Friday.
"New Prairie is a good team and our kids played a great half of football against their offense ... probably our best half of the year,'' Campbell said. "There were a couple times in the first half where their quarterback made some plays, plus they were able to hit a couple of big passes when our defensive backs came up too quickly. But overall, I think we played as well we we could tonight defensively.''
Junior quarterback Nick Wilson starred for the Cougars, rushing for 125 yards and a score, and hitting senior Garrett Ruiz for touchdown passes of 30 and 79 yards. New Prairie finished with 322 total yards.
The Cougars' first score came six minutes in, one play after a 15-yard chop-block penalty on New Prairie. Campbell chose to push the Cougars back to set up a third-and 25, rather than making it fourth-and-6 from the 15. Wilson scrambled to his left on the play and found Ruiz behind the Jimtown secondary for the 30-yard scoring pass.
New Prairie pushed the lead to 21-0 before halftime on a 14-yard run by Wilson and a 4-yarder by Austin Weiland on a fourth-and-1.
"They are so good at running their offense that I believe it took us a little time to get used to it,'' Campbell said. "But I was proud of the way our kids kept fighting and never quit even though we were down.''
The Jimmies opened the second half with a full-house backfield and promptly took 10 minutes off the clock with a 19-play drive featuring junior Nic Weiss and senior Kenny Kerrn. However, the drive stalled inside the Cougar red zone when quarterback Sam Pawlak threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-14.
Three plays later, New Prairie was back in the end zone, as Wilson faked a run, pulled up and found Ruiz well behind the Jimtown secondary for a 79-yard scoring pass.
Jimtown scored midway through the fourth quarter on a 25-yard pass from Pawlak to Zach Hill to finish the scoring.
"We need to get everything straight starting next week because it's do-or-die,'' Campbell said. "Hopefully we can take the momentum from the way we played in the second half and carry it over to the tournament."
The Jimtown offense, with the exception of the long drive that came up empty, struggled for much of the game against a physical Cougar defense, finishing with just 161 total yards.
New Prairie closes with a 7-2 record (5-1 in the Northern Indiana Conference South Division). Jimtown was 3-3 in the NIC South.
The Jimmies host Heritage (3-6) next Friday in a sectional opener.
NEW PRAIRIE 28, JIMTOWN 6
Scoring By Quarters
N — Garrett Ruiz 30 pass from Nick Wilson; Peyton Seibert kick; 6:00.
N — Wilson 14 run; Seibert kick; 7:38.
N — Austin Weiland 4 run; Seibert kick; 1:39.
N — Ruiz 79 pass from Wilson; Seibert kick; 11:50.
J — Zach Hill 25 pass from Sam Pawlak; pass failed; 6:06.
New Prairie: Rushing — Nick Wilson 29-125, Garrett Ruiz 11-47. Passing — Wilson 4-6-135 (0 int.). Receiving — Ruiz 3-115. Interceptions — Zack Ketterer, Ruiz.
Jimtown: Rushing — Nick Weiss 7-41, Kenny Kerrn 13-38. Passing — Sam Pawlak 6-22-75 (2 int.). Receiving — Dakota Pratt 3-27, Zach Hill 1-25, Nic Fann 1-14.