The Northeast 8 championship may very well be on the line on Friday when the Knights head to Leo in a pivotal showdown.
Both teams can make a case at being the top squad in the league. This week, we will find out who reigns supreme.
CONFERENCE TITLE GAME?
While there is a lot of football still to be played after this week in an ultra-competitive NE8, this game has the feel of a championship contest. Basically, the winner in this matchup puts itself in prime position to capture a league title.
Who will it be?
EAST NOBLE DOMINANCE
The Knights have dispatched of 14 straight NE8 opponents, regular season and playoffs combined.
The last game in which East Noble dropped to a league foe? A 35-21 setback against the Lions in 2017.
Last year in sectional play, we saw Coach Jared Sauder’s team able to go toe-to-toe with a Knights team that went to the 4A state title game in a 14-7 defeat.
Many of those players are back for Leo, and have revenge on the mind.
While everyone is pleased that high school football is still a thing, attendance regulations continue to limit the fan experience on Fridays.
This Friday is no exception, with no students allowed at the game at Leo.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
COLE SCHUPBACH, SENIOR, EAST NOBLE
Schupbach stepped into the quarterback role last week just hours before kickoff against Penn. The poise and leadership he showed throughout was one of the more impressive aspects of the game for East Noble.
Will it be Schupbach at QB again or will Dalton Stinson be back? Either way, Schupbach is capable of making an impact at wide receiver, on defense and in special teams.
KAEDEN MILLER, JUNIOR, LEO
Miller has been next to impossible to stop through the first month of the 2020 season. His most recent performance saw him score four times and rush for 134 yards in a pounding of New Haven.
The junior has stepped into the big void left by the departed Peyton Wall and performed above outside expectations.
JACOB VANGORDER, SENIOR, EAST NOBLE
The program’s all-time leading tackler is around the ball on almost every play, a true ball hawk in every sense of the word(s), the senior has amassed 39 tackles, six TFL and an INT through four weeks.
As the Knights look to limit the Leo rushing attack, VanGorder will be important as he figures to attempt to get penetration quite often.
LANDEN LIVINGSTON, JUNIOR, LEO
The two-way road grater made his presence known on defense last week against New Haven, picking off a pass in Leo’s big victory.
West Virginia must have liked what it saw, because the Mountaineers are the latest to join the sweepstakes for Livingston, offering him a scholarship on Wednesday.
In what is expected to be a tough and physical game, Livingston’s size and strength will be pivotal.
KEYS TO VICTORY – EAST NOBLE
CONTAIN KAEDEN MILLER
Leo has been able to rely on a solid running game in each of its first four games. Junior quarterback Jackson Barbour is capable of making some meaningful throws, he just has not been called upon much, throwing barely 20 times thus far.
East Noble can change that by bottling up Miller on early downs in the run game. The Lions in third-and-long are much easier to stop than third-and-short.
KEEP LEO ON ITS TOES
East Noble threw a lot at Penn last week, particularly on the opening drive for a touchdown with misdirection and counters.
Leo is a very tough defense to move the ball on, but it is also susceptible to overpursuit. Can the Knights utilize playcalling to keep the Lions off balance?
KEYS TO VICTORY – LEO
WIN THE POINT OF ATTACK
Three returning offensive linemen have been a key cog in Leo’s running game that has been such a fixture through the first month. Once again, the front line will be counted on to win their individual battles, open up holes and protect Barbour.
Leo was able to manhandle New Haven in the trenches on both sides of the ball last week. If the Lions can do that again on Friday, East Noble will be in trouble.
WIN THE FIELD POSITION BATTLE
One of the more unsung heroes of this season has been Leo punter Carson Mccauley, who has routinely pinned opponents deep within their own territory time after time.
Last week, Mccauley’s 71-yard punt gave New Haven horrible field position while also breaking a program record.
If this game is tight throughout, field position is going to be immensely important. With Leo’s defense, making East Noble move the length of the field to score will be advantageous.