East Noble is starting to put it together but still knows it has some things to shore up with the postseason right around the corner.
The Knights (5-3, 3-2 Northeast 8) beat New Haven 24-13 on Friday night, but the score was closer than how East Noble dominated the Bulldogs.
“I’m pretty excited with how we played,” East Noble coach Luke Amstutz said. “If we finish a couple of drives, put a couple of balls in the end zone, kick a couple of field goals, statistically we had a great night.”
They did indeed.
East Noble outgained the opposition 352-114 yards. New Haven had only five first downs the entire game, and the Bulldogs’ offense went 3-and-out eight times.
The Knights’ Justin Marcellus had another great night on the ground with 148 rushing yards on 31 carries and a touchdown. The Bulldogs finished with 40 rushing yards on 22 carries.
“When you play New Haven, you play a physical, athletic team, and you better come to play, and we came to play. Our offensive line had a pretty good night, and we really wanted to come in and run the ball well, and we did,” Amstutz said.
Defensively, the Knights held down New Haven quarterback Jakar Williams to 5-of-24 passing for 74 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. East Noble had three sacks, but could’ve had more.
“I thought it was a good night, though I also feel like they left some opportunities on the table. We had the quarterback corralled four or five times and let him escape, and he missed a couple of open receivers. If they hit a couple of those, things are tighter,” Amstutz said. “There’s always a handful of plays that make the difference between blowout and a close game, and some of those didn’t go our way.”
The Knights got on the board on the first possession of the game. On third and 12, Cole Schupbach threw a fade up to Rowan Zolman, who snatched the ball away from a New Haven defender and ran 56 yards for the touchdown.
On the next play for the Bulldogs, Williams was picked off by Nathaniel Summers in New Haven territory. But the Knights’ drive stalled, and the 47-yard field goal attempt by Cristian Sanchez was short.
East Noble tried to throw another fade for a touchdown early in the second quarter, but this time in the direction of Nick Munson. However, New Haven’s Cameron Mason jumped in front of Schupbach’s pass for the interception and returned it to the Bulldog 37-yard line.
The Knights didn’t give up and went back to the well a couple of drives later.
Schupbach lofted it up to Munson again, and this time the junior skied over the New Haven defender for the 23-yard score with three minutes left in the first half.
On the next drive, the Bulldogs earned their initial first down of the game on a pass from Williams to Lane Woodson for 11 yards. A few plays later on fourth and 9, Williams hit Quantri Sanders on a swing pass. Sanders broke a tackle and sprinted 37 yards for the touchdown just before halftime.
East Noble set the tone on its first drive of the second half with a nine-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 13-yard touchdown run by Marcellus.
Sanchez redeemed himself from the earlier miss on the next Knight drive with a 26-yard field goal to make it 24-7 late in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter dragged on for 42 minutes in real time, and the Bulldogs added another score off a short field to close the gap, but they could never muster up another long drive to cut into the lead any more.
The Knights take their final road trip of the regular season when they travel to Bellmont next week. Then, they host Columbia City in the first round of Class 4A Sectional play the following Friday. And Amstutz likes the way his team is playing.
“Everybody in that sectional knows that we lost some games but didn’t want to draw us,” Amstutz said. “We’re starting to show why we thought we could be a really good team this year. Now that we’re pretty healthy and finally figuring out the right spots for people, and if we can go play well next week no matter what the score is and we can play well and stay healthy, I really like the opportunity we have in front of us.
“We have a first-round game that we expect to win against an opponent that we know we can beat, but they’re a great team. We’re going to have to show up every week.”