NORMAL – University High Pioneers defenders could not stop the run game Corn Belt Conference rival Prairie Central employed when the Hawks visited Hancock Stadium on Sept. 22, as the visitors rushed for a total of 360 yards en route to a 24-7 victory. The engine that powered that ground game was led by Hawks senior running back Ethan Kinkade, who had 17 carries for 123 yards and one score.
Prairie Central (2-3 overall, 2-2 Corn Belt) scored with 1:57 left in the first quarter on a 58 yard sprint by Kinkade, capping a 4-play, 81 yard drive, putting the Hawks up, 7-0, following senior kicker Francis Strong’s extra point.
The Hawks’ lead increased to 14-0 with 26 seconds left in the second quarter, as the Pioneers defense found themselves unable to contain a sustained rushing drive of 70 yards in 13 plays which concluded with junior quarterback Billy Printz’s three yard touchdown run, followed by Strong’s extra point.
U-High (1-4, 1-2 Corn Belt) got on the scoreboard at 9:28 in the third quarter thanks to a 54 yard pass from junior quarterback Doug Holmes to junior tight end Mark Widdel, followed by sophomore kicker Nathan Clay’s extra point. That reduced the Hawks lead, 14-7.
The Hawks’ defense provided their next score while continuing to blockade the Pioneers’ efforts to get out front of their guests. With 1:28 left in the third quarter, the Hawks were forced to turn over the ball on downs having pushed a drive 63 yards before giving the ball back to the Pioneers at U-High’s 17.
But once the Pioneers got the ball back, an incomplete pass, a penalty, and a quarterback sack of Holmes had U-High pushed back to its own 3 yard line. One play later, Hawks’ senior defensive lineman Jaccob Karnes sacked Holmes in the end zone for a safety, pushing Prairie Central further in front, 16-7.
A Pioneers possession ended in the fourth quarter when U-High junior running back Trey Heffner fumbled at his own 38 yard line and Prairie Central junior linebacker Drew Hoselton recovered the ball allowing the Hawks to start a drive at U-High’s 41 yard line with 7:47 left in the contest. The Hawks’ offense chewed up yardage and the clock, scoring 11 plays later on a one yard run by Printz, increasing the Hawks’ lead, 24-7, following a 2-Point conversion run by Kinkade.
“We had over 360 yards of rushing the ball and our offensive line did a good job today,” Prairie Central head coach kirk Brandenburg said afterward. “Billy Printz had another good game. I liked the way we used the clock. You have the advantage if you can run clock like that. It just shortens the game.”
The loss prompted U-High head coach Trevor Von Bruenchenhein to call for a team meeting Saturday to look for ways to turn the season around. “We just weren’t doing things to the best of our ability,” he said. “It wasn’t anything that we weren’t prepared for or nothing we shouldn’t be able to handle in terms of scheme. Our opportunities were there. We just didn’t convert.”