MUNSTER | It was 5 yards here, 8 yards there, 4 yards here, 9 yards there.
Mishawaka ran the ball 55 times and controlled possession almost all night en route to a 24-17 win over Munster in the Class 5A Sectional 9 Championship.
"That's been our m.o. all season. We've been the kind that kept the ball away from our opponents," Mustangs coach Leroy Marsh said. "We had our chances."
The Cavemen (9-3) ate up clock with several prolonged drives. The killer was an 8:14 drive in the fourth quarter that ended with Tanner Bradley's eight-yard touchdown run with 2:51 left to seal the contest.
The Mustangs (7-4) got on the board first when Jeff Proctor broke a 79-yard run on the final play of the first quarter. Proctor had a hole the size of a Ford Mustang to run through but made players miss at the second and third levels before outrunning the Cavemen.
Mishawaka at up the last 5:05 of the first half on a methodical drive ending with a Darian Phillips one-yard touchdown sneak. A Munster offside penalty set up a Tanner Bradley conversion run, and the Cavemen led 8-7 at the break.
Seth Gutwein tried to field a punt inside the Mustangs' five-yard line in the third quarter. The ball bounced off Gutwein's chest, and it ended in a safety. Gutwein and lineman Eric Swingler were both returning from injuries for Munster.
Adam Heatherly took the subsequent punt back 56 yards for a score. Mishawaka failed to convert the point after and led 16-7.
"Most championship games you can't make two mistakes in the kicking game and win. And those cost us tonight," Marsh said.
Joe Jumonville drove the Mustangs offense down the field in the final minutes, hitting Zack Pickett with a 16-yard fade in the end zone, but it wasn't enough.
"This is a team that fought back from 2-8 a year ago," Marsh said. "Kids played with great effort and with great heart, and I can't be prouder of them."