Two-way football leads East Noble to make NE8 statement in 35-7 win at DeKalb

WATERLOO – DeKalb tried to play power ball on the ground, they tried to move chunks of yardage through the air and at the end of the day it was all for naught. East Noble was just too good on Friday night on both side of the ball leading to a 35-7 win on the road.

It improved the Knights to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Northeast 8 by handing the host Barons their first loss of 2019.

“It is really impactful. This was a huge step and gave us a lot of momentum going into next week and we are going to chase that goal of getting a conference title,” East Noble quarterback Bailey Parker said.

Parker used some quick passes to Hayden Jones in the first quarter to separate East Noble and the Knights never had to look back because of their big defensive stops. Just into the second quarter, a big fourth and two stop of DeKalb’s Landon Miller on the East Noble 30 yard line stifled the Barons’ first big chance to score.

Less than two minutes later, Parker was right back going to Jones, who broke away from Kai Zacharias to reach the end zone on a 37 yard score. DeKalb’s next possession was thwarted on a Brooks Miller interception that made a major statement about East Noble’s core of defensive backs.

“I think we have seen some pretty good teams already and had a lot of plays run against us so we’ve had to get better fast,” East Noble coach Luke Amstutz said. “We have some young kids playing defense that have learned a lot about the game. Ryan Robertson is our defensive coordinator and he works his butt off and does an awesome job.”

East Noble’s Hayden Jones takes off up field after a reception in the first quarter at DeKalb on September 13.

Amstutz also praised the senior leadership on defense of guys like Miller, lineman Leyth Al-Mohammedawi and also junior defense back Nathaniel Summers, who lost his starting position earlier this season, only to take it back and make waves in the secondary against DeKalb.

DeKalb got another chance in the second frame to put up points after Nate Williams knocked down a big Parker pass attempt. It led to DeKalb’s best drive of the first half by registering three first downs in part because of quarterback Evan Eshbach going aerial and away from the running game that stifled DeKalb early. But facing fourth down at the East Noble 12, the Barons were again held without points when Rowan Zolman knocked down a pass attempt, another example of the East Noble secondary depth.

That was all Parker needed to move the chains again, hitting Gage Ernsberger and Brett Christian for big gains before connecting with Zolman from 12 yards out in the final seconds of the first half to extend the halftime lead to a very important 21 points.

“There are just so many key plays in a game that you look at and things that happen that could go the other way,” Amstutz said. “In the second half, they came out playing well enough to beat us if we didn’t make those plays. We executed when we had to, like going into the end zone at the half when it is 14-0, that is where getting to 21 is really important.

Everybody is ‘let’s at least get a field goal.’ No, let’s get seven because you never know what you are going to need.”

DeKalb forced a three and out to start the second half and then made their move offensively. When Eshbach rolled out and found Caleb Nixon for a 33 yard pass that the receiver scooped up just before it hit the ground incomplete, things were finally looking up for the Barons. A Tanner Jack  four yard touchdown and Zacharias kick later and things started to look more competitive.

Justin Marcellus
East Noble running back Justin Marcellus is taken down, partially by his face mask, during the opening quarter of play on September 13 at DeKalb.

But the Knights again pushed back at any potential adversity. Their next drive was overshadowed by a pile of penalties. From unsportsmanlike conduct to encroachment, offsides and pass interference, the game was slowed by every kind of yellow flag you could imagine. At the end of the drive though, it was again Parker to Jones that reigned when Jones rose up with a leaping catch on third and two from the 20 yard line. It was Jones’ second touchdown reception of the night; he caught is passes for 93 yards.

“We noticed that their safeties were playing up the whole game and their linebackers were playing run heavy and they just seemed like they were trying to shut down our run, which just opened up the field,” Parker said. “That is why we got some deep passes on them and we had outside receivers with height that would go up and get the ball, I just had to put it in the right spot.”

It was especially big for East Noble’s receivers to outpace DeKalb’s defensive backs since it was the first game for the Knights on natural grass this season. Not only did it not slow the Knights down, they thrived against DeKalb blitz packages.

Parker would add the final touchdown of the game in the fourth on a 35 yard quarterback keeper run with 5:03 to play. He ran for 72 yards on nine attempts to go with his 256 yards in the air on 15-of-27 passing to five different receivers. He scored four of the five East Noble touchdowns with the three passing and one rushing.

While DeKalb had their chances and kept the score relatively close at times, it rarely looked like much less that East Noble dominance and, as they played for, a statement and big momentum heading into hosting Leo next Friday in yet another NE8 unbeaten battle.

Also notable in the game were heavy penalties. East Noble had 11 for 105 yards and DeKalb essentially offset that with 13 penalties for 110 yards.

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