On Saturday, East Noble suffered their first loss of the 2019 season, 21-3, to Evansville Memorial. Unfortunately, that just happened to be for Indiana’s Class 4A state title.
BAILEY PARKER WINS MENTAL ATTITUDE AWARD
There was little doubt who would be the winner of the Phil N. Eskew Mental Attitude Award. Northeast Indiana media lined up near East Noble’s Bailey Parker before his name was ever announced.
Parker was special all year for the Knights in numbers, but has been also important off the field and in the school. He is in the top five percent of his senior class academically as a high honor roll student for four years. His parents, Jim and Cheryl, joined him on the field as he fought back tears to talk about how the award means a lot not about him but about the attitude of his team and his school.
Highly involved in school activities, Parker organized the Riley Wagon Fundraiser for Riley’s Childrens Hosptial among other volunteer activities.
Showcasing his mental toughness, Parker looked roughed up and injured multiple times in the second half after big Evansville Memorial hits but was clearly dedicated to finishing his high school career on the field and not on the sideline.
“That was the best pass defense that I have ever coached against in a high school game,” East Noble coach Luke Amstutz said. “Those guys read their keys and got to their drops and got under balls and things we didn’t think they could do. They took away the one thing that nobody has been able to take away from us.”
SPECIAL TEAMS MAKE PLAYS
East Noble’s only point came in the closing moments of the first half when Joe Painter knocked in a 27 yard field goal. It was the second straight week that Painter was proven valuable after hitting two kicks in the semi state round. Although the Knights couldn’t capitalize on the halftime lead that Painter gave them, it was a shining moment for the senior on the biggest stage.
Painter made five field goals this season. He saved the most for the end.
But East Noble got more help on special teams. Cole Schupbach boomed punts, averaging 55 yards for the two he kicked.
And when East Noble needed field position late, Leyth Al-Mohammedawi blocked a punt that Gage Ernsberger fell on. It was a monumental play at the time for another senior although, again, East Noble wasn’t able to capitalize.
“We block a punt and still have an opportunity and aren’t able to score,” Amstutz said. “Once the snowball got rolling, we unfortunately missed a few tackles and that’s a good team…that’s an excellent team.”
JACOB VANGORDER’S ROLE CHANGE
Last season, Jacob VanGorder appeared to be the heir apparent running the football once Kaiden Harshberger graduated. He had run for 328 yards, third most on the team. But this year, the run game went a different way and VanGorder dug in on defense.
Saturday in the state finals, VanGorder’s name came out of the announcers name as much as anyone’s from East Noble, booming through the Lucas Oil Stadium speaker. VanGorder was all over the place, which isn’t a surprise when you know that he lead the strong defense in tackles. In the Class 4A state title game, VanGorder led both teams with 13 total tackles, none of which were solo. VanGorder also chipped in with his fourth sack of the year.
BROOKS MILLER GETS INT AT LUCAS OIL
Earlier in the week Outside the Huddle talked about what playing in the Colts stadium meant to Brooks Miller. The East Noble senior had his highlight moment, picking off a pass during the first quarter. His fourth interception of the year also didn’t yield an advantage for East Noble. And while Miller, like most of the Knights, won’t be able to immediately look past what the scoreboard said at the end of the game, this will be a big moment for him in the long run.
Just into the redzone near where the word ‘Colts’ is emblazoned in the end zone, Miller picked off a pass. Once some time and emotion pass, Miller will be able to look back at a day scoring on his favorite football team’s field favorably.
NEXT MAN UP
If East Noble was able to avoid one thing better than others all season, it was the injury bug. It bit them early in the Class 4A title game when running back Justin Marcellus went out with a shoulder injury. He was visibly agitated by the pain on the sideline when ice was applied and when he returned from the locker room at halftime, it was clear he wouldn’t return.
Parker, as noted, also was banged up for much of the second half; caught finally by that injury bug.
“Unfortunately, we had a couple injuries and some things that were tough for us to overcome,” Amstutz said. “We’ve overcome that stuff a few times and I think it just caught up with us. This is a group that I am extremely proud of and always will be.”
East Noble’s top running back, with 1,108 yards on the season going into Saturday, Marcellus had just four rushes for 14 yards. But East Noble made some moves, including going back to VanGorder for four carries and then to sophomore Kainon Carico. Carico carried the ball just 16 times all season, poised potentially for a big role next season. But on Saturday, he carried it nine times for 41 yards and a team high 4.6 yards per carry. He broke off solid runs, churned his legs and played for the moment, a good sign on the ground for East Noble moving forward.