INDIANAPOLIS -- The undefeated, Class 2A, 2nd ranked, North Putnam Cougars football team traveled to Indianapolis Friday night to play the always tough, Class 2A, 8th ranked, Speedway Sparkplugs, continuing their quest for their second consecutive West Central Conference championship and undefeated season.
North Putnam improved its season record to 8-0, defeating the Sparkplugs 21-8, in a terrific match-up of two powerful football teams.
The Cougars' defense forced Speedway to turn over the ball on their first drive of the game, as a terrific tackle by Jerrett Ban forced a fumble and Justin Ensor recovered the loose ball on the Sparkplug 37 yard line.
North Putnam drove the ball down the field to the Speedway 8 yard line, but the drive stalled and a Cougar field goal attempt was blocked by the Sparkplugs.
Both teams moved the ball down the field on their next two possessions, but the opposing defenses kept each other from scoring. However, the Cougars began to gain momentum in the last half of the second quarter, starting a drive on their 27 yard line with 6:07 left in the half.
North Putnam, using a variety of plays and players, drove the ball down the field to score the first points of the game, a 6-yard run by Adam Vondersaar, with 2:11 left in the half, and after Rob Ford kicked the extra point, the Cougars never trailed during the rest of the game.
The Cougars used runs by Vondersaar, JT Francies, and Kyle Rooker, and passes from Griffin Dahlstrom to Francies and Ford, to keep the Sparkplugs' defense off balance during the 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive.
North Putnam's defense stopped Speedway's final drive of the half on the Cougar 23-yard line, and a 40-yard field goal attempt by the Sparkplugs' hit the left upright and fell short, giving the visitors a 7-0 lead going into the locker room at halftime.
North Putnam came out in the second half and moved the ball down the field on their first possession of the third quarter, with runs by Dahlstrom, and Vondersaar, and a pass play from Dahlstrom to Francies.
Vondersaar scored his second touchdown of the night, this time a 2-yard run, and Ford's kick gave the Cougars a 14-0 lead with 8:25 showing on the clock in the third quarter.
Speedway scored, what would be their only points of the game, on their next possession and a 2-point conversion closed North Putnam's lead to six points, 14-8, with 2:45 left in the quarter.
However, the Cougar defense controlled the game from that point, limiting Speedway to 25 rushing yards and 10 passing yards during the remainder of the game.
There were two big plays that sealed the victory for North Putnam. Darr Boruff intercepted a Speedway pass and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown with 8:56 left in the game, and Ban intercepted another Sparkplug pass with 3:50 left in the game, which turned out to be the final offensive play of the game for Speedway.
It was another terrific team win for North Putnam, as the offense, defense, and special teams all contributed key plays in the game to defeat Speedway, and keeping the Cougars' chances alive for another WCC championship and undefeated season.
"We knew that they would be a big challenge for us tonight," North Putnam head coach Dave Pasch said following the game.
"Our defense was phenomenal, our defensive line played tremendously, and our passing game was better than anybody expected us to be."
"Tonight was a terrific program win for our team. This has been an 11-year program getting us to where we are tonight.
"Next week, we have a chance to win the conference championship two years in a row, which is only the second time in school history that has happened, and we have a chance to go undefeated two years in a row, for the first time in school history," added Pasch.
Vondersaar gained 96 yards on 19 carries to lead the Cougars in rushing. Dahlstrom followed with 81 yards on 14 carries, Rooker had 32 on nine carries, Ford had 26 yards on two runs, and Boruff ran for 23 yards on the run-back of the interception.
As a team, North Putnam gained 256 rushing yards compared to Speedway's 105 yards on the ground.
Defensively, Austin Malayer led the Cougars with 10 tackles, followed by Vondersaar and Ensor with seven each.
Ensor and Dahlstrom each recovered a fumble, and Ban and Francies grabbed interceptions.
The Cougars (8-0, 5-0 WCC) celebrate Senior night while hosting WCC and County rival Cloverdale next Friday night in the final regular season game of the year. The game begins at 7 p.m.
North Putnam -- Vondersaar 6 run (Ford kick) 2:11
North Putnam -- Vondersaar 2 run (Ford kick) 8:25
Speedway -- Avance 5 run (Avance 1 yd run for 2 pt conv) 2:45
North Putnam -- Boruff 24 run of interception (Ford kick) 8:56
First Downs -- North Putnam (10), Speedway (11)
Punts-Yards - North Putnam (3-96), Speedway (2-66)
Fumbles-Lost - North Putnam (1-0), Speedway (3-2)
Penalties-Yards - North Putnam (4-41), Speedway (2-10)
North Putnam (8-0, 5-0 WCC):
Rushing - (47 Carries, 256 yards) -- Dahlstrom 14-81, Rooker 9-32, Francies 2-(-2), Vondersaar 19-96, Ford 2-26, Boruff 1-23.
Passing - (5-10-0-0, 59 yards) -- Dahlstrom 5-10, 59 yds., 0 TD, 0 INT.
Receiving - (5 catches, 59 yards) -- Rooker 1-6, Ban 1-11, Francies 2-30, Ford 1-12.
Speedway (6-2, 5-1 WCC):
Rushing - (25 Carries, 105 yards) -- Bartel 2-23, Taylor 3-21, Jones 9-17, Hubbard 1-7, Swain-Nance 1-0, Avance 8-42, Duman 1-(-5).
Passing - (9-20-0-0, 111 yards) -- Bartel 6-12, 70 yds., 0 TD, 0 INT, Duman 3-8, 41 yds., 0 TD, 2 INT.
Receiving - (9 catches, 111 yards) -- Jones 1-(-2), Hubbard 1-5, Swain-Nance 3-59, Avance 4-49.
Next Game: The Cougars (8-0, 5-0 WCC) celebrate Senior night while hosting WCC and County rival Cloverdale next Friday night in the final regular season game of the year. The game begins at 7:00 p.m.