OTH FOOTBALL PREVIEW 2020: No. 4 East Noble Knights

East Noble’s Jacob VanGorder, Nick Munson, Rowan Zolman and Chris Hood.

The East Noble Knights are going to look a bit different this season.

For starters, quarterback Bailey Parker and his 4,400 yards of total offense are gone from the defending Class 4A state runner-up, as are four senior offensive linemen.

Chances are that the Knights will not be slinging it over the field like a year ago.

But winning games? Yeah, that’s still gonna be a thing for the boys in Kendallville.

Junior Dalton Stinson takes over at quarterback for East Noble. The goal for the new signal caller is simple.

“Expectation No. 1 for Dalton is to not turn the ball over,” East Noble coach Luke Amstutz said. “We took some chances with Bailey due to how experienced he was. With Dalton, things will be more in control. He will be asked to hand the ball off and when we do take shots to get the ball in the hands of the right guys.”

Luckily, Stinson will have plenty of options. Senior Justin Marcellus is back after rushing for over 1,100 yards last season. Jacob VanGorder and Kainon Carico will also see some touches.

Despite losing Hayden Jones and Gage Ernsberger at wideout, a pair who hauled in 26 TDs between them, Amstutz is confident that his wide receiver corps is stronger than a year ago. Junior Nick Munson caught 56 balls for 624 yards last season and is thicker and faster than a season ago. Fellow junior Ethan Nickles will see more time after being predominantly a return man in 2019.

But arguably the most dangerous weapon that the Knights will have in their arsenal will be Rowan Zolman. The junior is now 6-foot-5, 195 pounds and runs a 4.6 40. Amstutz describes him as “one of, if not the most athletic kid I have ever coached.” Zolman will line up at wide receiver and could be tough to contain.

Junior tight end Brett Christian is back. He hauled in 31 receptions for 334 yards and five TDs last year and will be a good safety blanket for Stinson.

The offense will thrive as long as the line comes together. Amstutz believes he has some talented players who have been biding their time, but with games against Plymouth and NorthWood to begin the season, there is not much in the way of time to ease into Friday nights.

At 6-foot-8, 320 pounds, Chris Hood is a big returner along the line for the Knights. Hood has worked hard on his strength during the offseason and even on his agility through a summer partially spent on the basketball court.

Defensively, a squad that held seven opponents to eight points or less a year ago brings back some experience and a lot of potential.

Carrico at 6-4, 230 will be a key piece up front. Sophomore Hunter Pfeiffer will also see the field in a big role, with Amstutz high on the underclassman.

VanGorder, East Noble’s all-time leading tackler, is back for his senior season at linebacker. He amassed 124 tackles a year ago and is just one of a wealth of linebackers who have speed. Cole Schupbach also eclipsed 100 tackles a year ago and will complement VanGorder at the middle level of the defense.

Zolman is the centerpiece of the defensive backfield after picking off a team-high five passes last season. Aydan Jones will be another player that could shine for the Knights defensively.

East Noble coach Luke Amstutz is flanked by his players during November 30, 2019’s State Finals and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

With the uniqueness of this season due to the pandemic, Amstutz has stressed to his team that it cannot let a single opportunity go by. Any team at any time could be placed in quarantine, leading to postponements or outright cancellations of games. Getting off to a fast start against tough non-conference opponents will be key.

“Every week you have the opportunity to get all your guys on the field you have to take advantage,” Amstutz said. “If our first period strength class gets quarantined, we are losing two games or however long they are out, that simple.

“All we are focused on is being at full strength for Plymouth and going from there.

WHY #4?

Fourteen victories and a trip to the Class 4A state championship game was the pinnacle of Coach Luke Amstutz’s coaching career with East Noble, but he is not satisfied with it being a one-and-done trip.

While there is a massive amount of production to replace, particularly at QB, the roster is still arguably one of the most talented in the area regardless of conference.

East Noble, until toppled, remains the heavy favorite in the Northeast 8.


Unfortunately, no non-conference games against SAC opponents prevents us from being able to see on the field how East Noble matches up against Snider, Bishop Dwenger and others. But there is no doubt that the Knights could have been competitive last year against anyone in the area.

While this season is promising, it will be a different look from East Noble. It may need to rely on its defense and running game to carry it for awhile.


Week 5 at Leo

East Noble beat the Lions twice a season ago, although the postseason meeting was decided by just seven points.

OTH feels the gap has closed between East Noble and Leo, with the biggest factor being the growth of the Lions and their sizable and talented junior class.

This game will likely decide the NE8, and Kendallville will be rocking.


Cristian Sanchez, senior, kicker

Amstutz has raved about Sanchez in the preseason, with Sanchez moving up from just a kick-off specialist last year to full placekicker in 2020. Sanchez has a huge leg, routinely bombing balls into the end zone.

With the Knights likely to rely on field position and running the ball a bit more than last year, getting three points out of a drive could be a big deal. Sanchez has the confidence of his head coach in that respect.


No. 15 DeKalb

No. 14 Norwell

No. 13 Adams Central

No. 12 Columbia City

No. 11 Eastside

No. 10 Concordia Lutheran

No. 9 South Adams

No. 8 North Side

No. 7 New Haven

No. 6 Leo

No. 5 Carroll

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply