Paul Condry and Matt Kopsea
Doing the little things has paid off big time for Noah Mungia.
After bursting on to the scene last year as a sophomore to rush for 1,112 yards with 10 touchdowns, the New Prairie High running back remains driven for more success.
“Well, this off-season I mainly worked on my patience being able to see the holes more,” explained Mungia. “Seeing those little creases that I wouldn’t have seen last year. Being more physical. Being more of a physical barrier. Being more north and south back instead of being an east and west back, and not running around as much and taking what I get it instead of trying to make a big play.”
Implementing all of these traits definitely paid off for Mungia in the 2021 season opener against rival LaPorte as he exploded for 33 carries for 324 yards and five touchdowns.
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound junior will look to keep the Cougars moving in the right direction Friday when No. 8 (Class 4A) New Prairie (3-0) welcomes defending co-champion Mishawaka Marian (1-2) to Amzie Miller Field for the Northern Indiana Conference East-West Division opener.
Although Mungia has accumulated 83 carries for 789 yards and 11 scores over the first three weeks, having a talented front line, featuring University of Illinois recruit Hunter Whitenack, leading the charge has also made a difference.
“Obviously, it’s great to run behind Hunter because I know he’s going to get his job done 100 percent of the time,” Mungia said. “He’s a hard worker and I believe we have the best line in the state. He makes my job easy. Our relationship is pretty good. We work out, go to school, and we spend a lot of our time together. In the end, we both love playing football.
“I have a different relationship with each of my linemen. Every one of them brings something different to the table and they all make my job easier.”
Having blocked for standouts like former quarterback and current Notre Dame player Chase Ketterer, the 6-foot-8, 330-pound Whitenack believes Mungia is destined for greatness.
“Noah is doing a great job running the ball,” Whitenack said. “He already has the same number of touchdowns as last year with 11 scores in three games. I feel the whole offense has improved a ton and Noah’s a huge part of it. I expect him to keep scoring multiple touchdowns a game and rushing over 200 yards.
“As an offensive lineman, having Noah running the ball is awesome. If he can keep this up, I can see him being named all-conference and maybe all-state.”
New Prairie second-year boss Casey McKim has enjoyed watching the maturation of his talented back and NCAA Division 1 lineman.
“Noah had a very good sophomore season last year with over 1,000 yards rushing in what ended up being essentially seven games for him,” McKim said “As a sophomore, he was much more of an explosive scat back who could bust some long runs. In the off-season he added 30 pounds, got stronger, and kept his speed and explosiveness. His patience to set up his blocks this year has been tremendous. He has the speed to burst into the secondary and the strength and size to lower the shoulder on a safety when he gets there.
“Hunter has been a tremendous leader for us this past year. He has really challenged Noah to push himself physically and mentally. Noah has a strong bond with his offensive line. In all of the interviews he has done, he has been quick to point out and name the offensive linemen who make it all possible. The line of Hunter Whitenack, Jacob Mrozinski, Michael McLaughlin, Adam Borror, Jacob Meyers, Thomas Sanders, Grant Jarka, and Blake Morse have created opportunities that Noah has multiplied with his talent and ability. Right now, there is a lot to be positive about, but we look forward to seeing how much we will improve throughout the season.”
Long-time New Prairie assistant coach Bill Gumm has also been impressed with the bond established between Noah and his front line.
“I believe Noah has done a great job recognizing from which side his bread is buttered,” Gumm said. “He will be the first to credit his offensive line in every interview. Noah has really grown as a running back for us this season. His decision making and explosiveness is a credit to the hard work he put in the off season.
“After every touchdown, Hunter Whitenack is usually the first in the end zone to give Noah his trademarked toss in the air. I worry at times that Hunter is tossing our little guys a little too far into the air.”
Having endured some ups and downs on the way to a 5-5 finish a year ago, McKim is glad things are better the second time around.
“It has been a great start to the season so far,” McKim explained, “I feel like we have made tremendous strides in every facet of our program in the last year. Whether it is time to gel as a staff, more time to get to know the kids, or it is finally getting to have off-season, we have made significant improvement. Another part of our improvement is also combining some new and old ideas together from the staff to create a system that works for our kids.”
With another year to fine tune and showcase his skills ahead of him, Mungia is focused on the present and not worried about the past or future.
“Obviously, last year was a hard year for Coach McKim to try to teach us a new offense with limited time, but this year, I just feel like we have a better grasp of it and it’s easier for us than it was last year,” Mungia said. “I want to learn this offense and believe it’s very effective, but I just feel like we didn’t get the chance to learn it last year. I like to run the ball, but what I like about this offense is the different looks we can give defenses and how we’re not one dimensional. We have a lot of options that we can throw at people this year. If one thing is not working, we can go to something else and we can keep a defense guessing.
“Coach (McKim) has a lot of different schemes based on the defenses we see. Depending on what we see during a game the coaches are always drawing something up to make it work. The main thing the coaches want from us this year is for us to be a physical team no matter what we’re doing. The coaches want us to be physical whether it is offense or defense. We really want to be physical and show our dominance each play. I think Coach McKim, Coach Gumm, Coach Chase, Coach (Kenny) Eagle, Coach (Josh) Bolakowski, Coach (Bobby) Whitenack, Coach (Frank) Hobart, and Coach (Jim) Schwingendorf all do a great job of coaching and preaching that we are going to be physically dominant.”
It appears Mungia and company have the Cougars off and running in the right direction.