HAMMOND — Credell Prather still isn’t sure he fumbled that football.
Morton was driving, in Lowell territory and trailing the Red Devils 10-7 in the third quarter of a Class 4A sectional championship game when the ball came out of the then junior quarterback’s hands. The Red Devils recovered and scored the next 10 points and went on to win 20-14.
“It was second down and I was just trying to hurry up and get the first. They poked the ball out. It’s my fault. I was held up but I can’t blame it on the refs. It was my fault,” Prather said. “If we would’ve just finished that drive, we’re up. It’s tough. I use it to motivate me and the guys do, as well.”
That motivation is palpable on the Governors' practice field this summer.
“After a loss like that, you can finger point or you can take accountability,” coach Sean Kinsey said. “I think that our kids did it quicker and better than I thought they were going to do, in all honesty. We were in position and you’ve got to make plays. I think they’ve approached the offseason with a different hunger.”
There are athletes everywhere and both Morton lines are big. Folks in Hessville expect the guys with their hands in the turf on defense to be dominant.
“We’re just really excited to get an opportunity to go against Lowell again. It’s been a buildup to get back to being competitive with them,” Kinsey said. “They know that they can play with Lowell and it’s our job to help build them up.”
The Governors also have a luxury in Prather that most area coaching staff's envy: A senior with experience under center.
“The strength of our team is definitely our quarterback and our receivers,” Kinsey said. “There’s not a guessing game on how (Prather) will handle situations. He’s battle-tested. He’s had his highs and his lows. He’s got some steadiness there and that’s always a comforting feeling.”
Prather will have a lot of weapons, too, led by senior Tirae Spence and junior Jojo Johnson. And he’ll need them to replace the production of 1,000-yard rusher Eric Johnson, who is now a freshman back at Eastern Illinois.
“With all of our receivers and our passing game, we can make up those yards,” Prather said. “We do have some very good running backs that are growing, too.”
Prather threw for 1,899 yards and 22 touchdowns with seven interceptions as a junior. In the area, only Andrean’s Zack Merrill and Michigan City’s Bryce Hayman gained more ground through the air. Both graduated.
Prather also ran for 483 yards and another six scores.
“My goal is basically just to be No. 1 in the Region for passing and rushing as a quarterback,” he said. “That, and of course, getting a state championship.”
Prather camped at several colleges this summer, including Ball State and Grand Valley State, on top of work with “Top Gun” coach Bill Reagan. He feels like his mechanics are better, but so is his reaction time and mental game.
He has a scholarship offer from NAIA Siena Heights but has seen interest from Marian, Indiana State, Eastern Illinois, Grand Valley, University of Indianapolis and others.
“This is definitely the year. We’ve got a lot of good experience this year,” Prather said. “We played our hearts out in that (Lowell) game. Everybody put 100 percent in. We made some mistakes but we’re fixing those mistakes in practice every day.”