Outside the Huddle is profiling which 10 area football stadiums it feels are the best around as we count down the days until (hopefully) the start of football season in August.
Each facility is rated on four factors – game night atmosphere, design, amenities and team success, as well as testimonials from the home team, the opposition and the enigmatic Blitz himself.
No. 1 East Noble
Location: East Noble High School
First season: 1966
Playing surface: Turf
Named for: No name
SCORE BREAKDOWN (1 – lowest; 5 – highest)
Game night atmosphere: 5
Simply put, there is nothing like game night at East Noble. From the consistently immense crowds that tailgate before the game to the first-class operation of the facility and the knowledge of East Noble fans and the student section, there is no weak link on Friday nights in Kendallville.
People begin to arrive hours before the game, making for an interesting spectacle when the opposing team arrives in buses and has to maneuver its way through the line of spectators to park next to the main entrance.
On game nights, much of the home bleachers are full while the teams are still warming up. The little kids, future Knights, parade around in East Noble garb, proud to be the next generation of players to represent East Noble on the gridiron.
The team takes to the field amid a tunnel of fans with drums leading them out, adding to the anticipation of kickoff.
Cannons booming and a large crowd cheering makes touchdowns at East Noble feel like big-time events.
Football IS Kendallville in the fall.
The clean, crisp look and feel to the unnamed stadium at East Noble owes a lot to the turf installed several years ago. The vibrant colors look spectacular under the lights and definitely add to the atmosphere.
The trees surrounding much of the stadium helps amplify the rural setting.
While several decades old, the facility has been and continues to be upgraded at every opportunity when the need arises. The bleachers are solid and clean and the scoreboard is large and easy to read.
From pizza to burgers, the concession stand is stocked for whatever kind of food you desire.
There is ample seating on both sides of the stadium, although restroom facilities are only on the home side.
The press box is large enough to accommodate any number of media guest and game workers.
Team success: 4
East Noble returned to the state championship game for the first time in 16 years in 2019. With its entire playing history at its current facility, every great team and epic moment of Knights’ home football has happened in one place.
Chris DePew and now Luke Amstutz have built an NE8 powerhouse in Kendallville, with East Noble having won three straight league titles and four in the last five years.
The Knights ended their postseason title drought last year in capturing its first sectional title since 2003. And that is the next step for East Noble, consistent deep postseason runs to go with its 17 consecutive winning seasons.
Columbia City coach Brett Fox: “Kendallville has some nice away locker rooms right by the field. It is also nice to have a separate entrance onto the field than East Noble. They have a nice scoreboard right on our side. Their bleachers block the sun for opposing teams, which is always good for those 7 p.m. kickoffs. Our fans have plenty of seating and standing room around the field to catch the game from lots of vantage points. A small parking lot set aside for visiting teams’ buses right next to the locker room creates easy in and out for the team.”
East Noble coach Luke Amstutz: “Friday Knights at East Noble are SPECIAL. It begins during the school day, when there is just a different feel in town for the entire day. People generally begin lining up after school to secure seats in the stadium. Opposing buses have to weave through lines of people waiting on tickets. Many times, the stadium is full when we take the field to warm up an hour before game time. Walking back out before the game, being led by the drum corps, smelling the food, seeing little kids in “Knightmare” Jerseys, and running on to the field in front of a whole town is exhilarating. Our fans love and appreciate and understand the game. They expect us to win, no matter what our talent level is. When our players graduate, they know they were a part of something special, and experience that they will never feel again. Everything about a Friday Knight in Kendallville is just different.”
There is no better atmosphere for Friday Night Lights in northeast Indiana than at East Noble. The entire town of Kendallville descends upon the facility for every home game. From kids to parents to grandparents – all adorned with East Noble apparel – there is nothing like the support you see for the Knights.
Blitz is always welcomed with open arms and folks are genuinely appreciative when you visit. It is a destination spot for those looking for a great Friday experience on the gridiron in the fall.
Coming Friday: Honorable Mention