KENDALLVILLE – As the final desperate heave into the end zone was knocked down as time expired, the East Noble sideline sprinted onto the field in celebration.
It was over…finally.
East Noble’s first trip to the state championship since 2003 wasn’t easy, nor was it pretty at times. Yet perseverance prevailed.
The result? A 29-24 victory over Hobart.
In the immediate aftermath of the win as hundreds of East Noble students sprinted onto the field, Blitz could hardly remember the situation the Knights found themselves in just a few hours before.
Four minutes into the second quarter, East Noble trailed 17-0 on its home field. Bailey Parker had thrown a pair of interceptions and fumbled once. The Brickies (11-3) were teeing off on the senior stud, putting him under a consistent pressure the kind he hadn’t experienced all year long.
But you know what? Blitz never felt like East Noble was out of the game.
Thankfully, neither did the Knights.
“I’m so proud and thankful for all my teammates, they dug me out of the rut I was in in the first half,” Parker said. “Our defense had a hell of a game.”
East Noble (14-0) began to turn momentum on a 4th-and-one at its own 31 trailing by 17. A Justin Marcellus two-yard gain moved the chains and was shortly followed by a 40-yard completion from Parker to Hayden Jones. Parker then burst loose for 38, with Marcellus capping the drive with a 3-yard touchdown plunge.
The score put the Knights on the board and gave them life. Coach Luke Amstutz’s team then ran with it.
The defense that Parker spoke so highly about began to get stops. Parker himself made up for his trio of interceptions by picking off a pair of Riley Johnston passes himself.
A clutch Joe Painter field goal (one of two he would hit on the night) trimmed the deficit to seven at half, with the Knights then tying it on a 2-yard score by Marcellus late in the third.
While the score was tied and the game was still technically in doubt at that point, Blitz had that feeling.
Yes, East Noble struggled early on, particularly with turnovers (it would finish with five for the game). Sure, Hobart had the weaponry to still make it tough on the Knights.
But Blitz never doubted that the Knights were going to win. Why?
Hobart’s 17-0 lead wasn’t as much the Brickies dominating as it was East Noble making some uncharacteristic mistakes, including turnovers and allowing a blocked punt.
The Knights, as shaky as they seemed, still looked like the better team.
It only continued to be proven true as the second half progressed. A team safety in which a gaggle of East Noble defenders tackled Hobart running back DJ Lipke three yards in the end zone gave the Knights a 19-17 advantage.
Eventually, the defensive stop of a pair of heaves into the end zone in the final seconds proved to be the game winners, but Hobart only completed four passes the entire game. Blitz would have been shocked (think AC beating South Adams shocked) if the Brickies were able to beat East Noble through the air.
In the end, the better team won on Friday. The better team is advancing to play Evansville Memorial in the Class 4A state championship game at 3:30 p.m. next Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
To some in attendance on Friday, several thousand of them, the contest was in doubt until the end.
But to Blitz? His pick of East Noble to win never felt threatened all night.
The reward? A trip to Indianapolis for the first time since 2003.