KENDALLVILLE – East Noble coach Luke Amstutz embraced his wife and children close to midfield following his team’s 30-24 loss to Penn on Friday. His face displaying the thoughts of a mind rolling through a myriad of emotions.
But most of all, pride.
Amstutz was proud of his team for going toe-to-toe with one of the most storied programs in the state, a 6A foe at that in the Kingsmen.
Amstutz was proud of the environment in Kendallville – social distancing, limited capacity and all – which helped put forth a raucous atmosphere on a night that easily could have had 5,000 people in attendance.
Amstutz was proud of Cole Schupbach, a senior who found out at 2 p.m. Friday that he would be starting at quarterback for the ill Dalton Stinson. All Schupbach did was throw for 172 yards and run for another 80.
Looking emotional and exhausted immediately after the finish, Amstutz did his best to put Friday into words.
“That is what high school football is supposed to be right there,” Amstutz said. “That is a great program we played and our kids battled their asses off. The kids rallied around Cole, the offensive line grew up…we are beat up but we played with heart.
“I love these kids, I just love ’em.”
East Noble (3-1) had Penn – a program that had never played a northeast Indiana team outside of the SAC – on the ropes late. When Schupbach scrambled his way to a 13-yard touchdown with 2:34 left in the fourth, then capped it with a two-point conversion run, the Knights had the momentum with the game tied at 24.
But Penn (2-2) responded. For the second time in the game, a short screen pass by Ron Powlus III went for a touchdown as Kyle Riffel squirted loose for a 59-yard go-ahead score with 37 seconds left. While the extra point was missed, East Noble was not able to seriously threaten on the final possession of the game, with Schupbach taking a sack as time expired close to midfield.
While the immediate feelings were ones of sorrow as the Knights dropped their first regular-season game since Week 2 of 2018, East Noble can take solace in the fact that it got better on Friday night while challenging a 6A power.
“We are going to win a game later in the season because of this one tonight,” Amstutz said. “It was a physical game and we wanted our kids to respond and play where they cannot back down. You get into the playoffs and some teams say, ‘We are done. We are ready for basketball.’
“Our kids aren’t like that. They learned so much tonight. They are crushed right now because they are so used to winning.”
For Schupbach, a kid who barely had five hours to prepare, his night involved a lot of nerves and a lot of decision making behind center. While disappointed, he found the silver lining in the defeat.
“We have to take into consideration what this (losing) feeling feels like,” Schupbach said. “We don’t want to feel this again. We want to win conference, beat Leo, beat New Haven and not lose again.”
While some with dissect Friday and what could have been, Amstutz’s team will quickly turn the page. The Knights travel to Leo next week in a pivotal NE8 showdown.
The lessons learned against Penn will pay dividends down the road, perhaps as soon as Week 5.
Blitz saw dejection post-game surrounding East Noble. But he also saw gratification that it gave Penn all it could handle. That aspect of Friday’s game will stick around the longest, and fuel the Knights the rest of the 2020 season.
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