NEW SALEM -- On New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin's first play from scrimmage Saturday afternoon, quarterback Evan Henke turned the ball over in Holsteins' territory, leading to a North Prairie touchdown.
However, the junior standout more than made up for that mistake the rest of the way.
Henke completed 12 of 23 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns as the Holsteins rolled to a 38-18 victory over the Cougars in a 9-man football quarterfinal game played at Gaebe Field.
Henke was hit hard from behind on a play-action pass, forcing a fumble that was recovered by North Prairie on the New Salem-AGU 34-yard line. Seven plays later, quarterback Austin Soukup scored on a 1-yard sneak with 5:41 remaining in the first quarter to give the Cougars a 6-0 lead.
Henke bounced back, completing eight of his next nine pass attempts for 170 yards to power the Holsteins to a 22-6 halftime advantage.
"You're going to make mistakes in a game, and sometimes they're going to cost you. You just have to put it behind you and move on," said Henke, who also rushed for 35 yards and a touchdown. "I made a big mistake early in this game, but I couldn't let it bother me. I had to bounce back and help my team score some points. My teammates were counting on me, and I have a lot of confidence in them."
The Holsteins evened the score at 6-6 on their next possession as Henke capped an 11-play, 67-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper.
After the New Salem-AGU defense held the Cougars on downs on the Holsteins' 41, Henke and Brandon Schroeder connected for a 35-yard score to finish off a quick 4-play, 59-yard march. Henke passed to Garret Soupir for the extra two points to make it 14-6.
North Prairie threatened after the ensuing kickoff, but the drive stalled on the New Salem-AGU 6. From there, Henke engineered a 9-play, 94-yard scoring drive that ended with a 10-yard pass to Soupir with 1:24 left in the second quarter. Soupir, who had a 42-yard reception earlier in the drive, also ran for the 2-pointer.
Three straight possessions, three touchdowns.
"It was great to see the kids respond the way they did after an early letdown," said New Salem-AGU coach Steve Kleinjan, whose team improved to 10-0. "Evan stepped up like a leader should and the rest of the team followed. He got into a rhythm and everything clicked offensively."
Grant Munro's 2-yard touchdown run with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter pulled North Prairie within 10 points, 22-12, but less than a minute later, Henke found Soupir for a 64-yard score. Henke later ran for the 2-pointer to give the Holsteins a 30-12 lead.
Soupir, a converted running back, finished the day with five catches for 130 yards.
"Garret's been awesome this year. He's our top receiver," Henke said. "He works hard in practice and it shows in games."
The Holsteins' defense got into the scoring act late in the fourth quarter when Schroeder, a linebacker, intercepted a Soukup pass and returned it 17 yards to pay dirt. Henke passed to Soupir for NSAGU's final two points.
A 36-yard pass from Soukup to Gabe Leonard with 1:46 left closed the scoring.
Kleinjan said the Cougars' big-play offense was a huge concern, but of North Prairie's 56 plays, seven went for 10 or more yards. Munro had a 60-yard run in the third quarter, but his other 11 carries produced 38 markers. Soukup carried 16 times for 39 yards, and Leonard six times for 23. Soukup passed for 130 yards, but 53 came on North Prairie's final possession.
"This is a team that scored 64 points last week and had three kids that went over 100 yards rushing, but I thought our kids did a nice job keeping that offense under control," Kleinjan said. "We gave up a couple of big plays, but other than that, it was a good day for our defense."
The Holsteins will host Region 5 rival Shiloh Christian on Saturday in a semifinal game. New Salem-AGU edged the Skyhawks 36-34 in the region championship game on Oct. 6.