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Freshman steps in to carry load for Cougars

The injury bug bit Saint Francis hard again Saturday.

And again, the Cougars overcame it.

Freshman running back Jason Nicodemus, a Churubusco alum, came in the game when junior Garrett Harvey went down with an injury. The former Eagle ran for 128 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown as the No. 4 Cougars beat No. 20 Saint Francis (Ill.) 37-28 in Joliet, Ill.

“We preached to them all along, your time’s going to come,” Cougars coach Kevin Donley said. “You’ve got to be ready. If you’re a No. 2 or No. 3 – Nicodemus was a No. 3, and now here he is, the leading rusher.”

The 5-foot-9, 200-pound back had just four carries for 8 yards this season before a knee injury took Harvey out of the game. Harvey was pressed into action after Week 2, when the Cougars’ top offensive threat, Antoin Campbell, ended his season with an ACL tear.

The banged-up Cougars (5-1, 2-0 Mid-State Football Association) faced some more setbacks against the Fighting Saints (4-3, 2-1).

Senior quarterback Josh Miller, who makes up the run-oriented portion of the Cougars’ one-two punch at quarterback, did not return after the first half.

“We were going to start the second half with Miller, and his ankle tightened up and he couldn’t go,” Donley said. “Harvey’s knee, we’ll find out. He gets an MRI on Monday. We had one of our offensive linemen go down, too: Jesse Boley. Hopefully they’ll all be OK.”

If not, the Cougars will keep plugging in guys. It has worked so far.

Senior quarterback David Yoder was 31 of 51 for 262 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with Miller out. He orchestrated a late drive in the first half after the Saints put up 14 unanswered points to tie the game with 2:10 remaining.

The Cougars went for it on fourth and goal from the 7, and Yoder found Akeim Kelsaw for a touchdown with 1:05 left in the half.

“That’s a momentum-changer,” Donley said.

MANCHESTER 42, EARLHAM 13: In Richmond, the Spartans (2-5, 2-3 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) picked up their second win of the season despite being outgained 362-346 by the Quakers (1-5, 0-4), taking advantage of three Earlham fumbles and intercepting quarterback Matt Couch twice.

ADRIAN 16, TRINE 9: In Angola, the Thunder (3-4, 0-3 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) dropped its fourth straight game. Trine led the Bulldogs (6-1, 3-0) 3-0 at halftime but gave up two touchdowns in the third quarter.

BUTLER 24, DRAKE 14: In Indianapolis, Wade Markley threw for 253 yards and rushed for the final touchdown of the game as the Bulldogs (6-2, 4-0) stayed undefeated in Pioneer Football League play.

Markley, making his first start of the season, scored on a 4-yard rush to stretch a close 17-14 lead into a two-score game.

MOREHEAD STATE 42, VALPARAISO 28: In Valparaiso, Austin Gahafer threw three touchdown passes on a career-high 458 yards passing as the Eagles (3-4, 3-1 Pioneer Football League) erased a first-half deficit to win their third straight. The Crusaders (1-6, 1-3) have lost three straight.

Eric Hoffman threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns to lead Valparaiso, which led 28-19 at halftime.

ILLINOIS STATE 55, INDIANA STATE 14: In Normal, Ill., Marshaun Coprich ran for 137 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Redbirds.

Illinois State (3-4, 2-2 Missouri Valley) scored on each of its first six drives, taking a 38-0 lead after a 4-yard touchdown run by Coprich in the second quarter.

Coprich also ran for a 1-yard score on the Redbirds’ first drive of the game and a 72-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Robert Tonyan Jr. went just 8 for 22 for 69 yards passing for Indiana State (1-6, 0-3), which managed just 174 total yards.