Can anyone knock off East Noble?
With just three league losses over the last four years, there is no question that the Knights have been the consistent perennial title contender in the Northeast 8.
While some programs are looking to be on an upward trend (DeKalb) others are looking to get back on track after a disappointing 2018 (New Haven).
Allow Blitz to break down the NE8.
The search for the favorite in the NE8 begins and ends in Kendallville. East Noble has won seven or more games in every season dating back to the days of Chris DePew on the sidelines.
But this year’s team has plenty of talent without needing history on its side. Bailey Parker is one of the top two-way players in the area, and his leadership at quarterback and at safety will pay dividends. A tough non-conference schedule (per usual) will get the Knights ready for league play beginning in Week 3.
Leo must replace starting quarterback A.J. Restivo and a host of other big-time producers, but Peyton Wall is a name to remember. The Lions haven’t had a losing season in 13 seasons. Don’t expect that streak to end this season. If Leo can find its way early, it could contend for a league title.
DeKalb has break-out season written all over it. A massive, physical offensive front coupled with a 2,000-yard passer (Evan Eshbach) and a solid running game with leader Tanner Jack has the Barons a trendy pick to ascend towards the top of the conference.
Who is left at New Haven to carry the offensive load? It will be a new cast of skill position players for Coach Jimmy Linn in his second season. With they be enough for the Bulldogs to erase the sour taste of a 3-4 league record last year?
Columbia City sophomore quarterback Greg Bolt may just be the next big thing in terms of northeast Indiana signalcallers. The underclassman already has the respect of his teammates, who voted him one of the program’s captains. If the offensive line can find consistency, the Eagles could surprise.
Norwell coach Josh Gerber is hoping that sophomores thrown into the deep end last season such as quarterback Eli Riley and running back Max Ringger can take another step forward as juniors to begin the Knights’ march back up the standings.
There may be no program in the area with more untapped potential than Huntington North. Coach Bob Prescott has already brought renewed energy and enthusiasm to practice in his first year. Will it result in more wins? Maybe not in the short term, but the Vikings are in good hands.
Bellmont went from an 0-fer in the regular season in 2018 to playing for a sectional championship. A new coach (Eric Davis) brings some optimism, but this feels like a serious rebuilding job.
Bailey Parker, senior, East Noble: It is impossible to run out of superlatives to throw this kid’s way. He speaks on an even keel, but once he sets foot on the field he becomes a straight competitor. He is a threat to throw for 2,500 yards and make 100 tackles on defense.
Peyton Wall, senior, Leo: Wall amassed over 1,000 yards of total offense last year behind Alex Wertman, including over 400 yards receiving. Wall is as versatile as they come and Coach Jared Sauder will use him as such. Defenses must account for where he is pre-snap on every down.
Landon Miller, senior, DeKalb: With so much talk about the Barons’ offense, Blitz would be remiss if he didn’t give a nod to a member of the defense. Miller could be in for a monster season in the middle of that DeKalb D. He can pressure the ball, he can move from hash to hash and he can get off blocks. He could put up huge numbers in 2019.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
Greg Bolt, sophomore, Columbia City: Coach Brett Fox gushes anytime Bolt’s name is brought up by Blitz. You don’t want to put too much pressure on the kid, but if he continues to develop he could truly be that generational talent that takes a program to the next level.
Jacob VanGorder, junior, East Noble: With Kaiden Harshberger gone, VanGorder will start the season not only as East Noble’s top running back, but will also reprise his role as one of the Knights’ primary defensive playmakers at linebacker.
Eli Riley, junior, Norwell: The two-way player thrived as a deep safety for the Knights in 2018 while being named First Team All-NE8. He also got his feet wet as a sophomore quarterback on offense. Keep an eye on this kid.