BUTLER — Coaches count on their best players to make plays in key moments.
A quartet of players did just that for the West Noble Chargers in a 38-19 win over the host Eastside Blazers at Butler Friday.
Josh Gross scored three times and teammate Brandon Pruitt scored twice for West Noble, who improved to 3-0 in all games.
Pruitt ran 23 times for 161 yards. Gross carried 10 times for 92 yards and one score. He caught three passes for 46 yards and another score. Gross also made two big plays on defense, knocking a would-be touchdown pass out of an Eastside receiver’s hands before returning an interception 96 yards for a score late in the game.
Quarterback Kyle Mawhorter completed six passes for 158 yards for two scores. Slot receiver Rocky Slone caught three passes for 112 yards and a touchdown.
“This is a good group of kids,” said West Noble coach Monte Mawhorter. “We threw the ball fairly well tonight. Rocky Slone caught a couple of nice passes.
“(Eastside) made some really good adjustments at halftime and attacked some things we really need to work on, and I’m really glad they did because next week, we play Angola and they run a lot of the same stuff,” he said. “That gives us a look at what we have to work on.”
Eastside is 1-2 with the loss. The Blazers made four turnovers — three in the third and fourth quarters that snuffed out a rally.
West Noble scored twice in less than a minute of the first half to take a 19-7 lead into the break.
Mawhorter connected with Gross for a 16-yard TD pass with 5 minutes, 31 seconds left in the first. Eastside blocked the extra-point kick.
The Blazers answered right back, overcoming an illegal block penalty during the drive. Quarterback Laban Davis completed passes for 13, 12, 12 and 8 yards, the last on a fourth-down play to Lane Burns, who stretched the ball across the goal line with 46 seconds left. Jaiden Baker’s kick gave the hosts a 7-6 lead.
The Chargers responded with a two-play drive, with the final 44 yards covered by Pruitt on a nice run up the sideline.
West Noble recovered an onside kick near midfield. Pruitt ran for 31 yards on the first play after the recovery, and Gross scored from the three on the second play of the second. Coy Wolheter made the extra-point kick for a 19-7 lead.
The Chargers got the ball to start the third. Gross ripped off a 28-yard gain to the Eastside 36. Five plays later, Mawhorter found Slone behind the defense for a 33-yard TD strike. The Chargers failed to convert the extra point, leading 25-7 with 9:41 left.
The Blazers tried to rally.
Davis hit Wade Miller for 18 yards to the Charger 42. On the next play, Davis called his own number, and got a huge block from teammate Phoenix Smyth that resulted in a 42-yard touchdown run. Eastside missed the two-point try, trailing 25-13 with 8:38 left in the third.
The defense forced a West Noble punt, and the Blazers went right back to work.
Freshman Dax Holman, who ran for 47 yards in his first start, gained 18 to the Charger 29. Four plays later, Davis and Dylan Bredemeyer hooked up on a 17-yard TD play. Eastside missed the extra-point try, however, and trailed 25-19 with 4:37 left in the third.
Eastside forced another three-and-out and got the ball back late in the third.
Davis and Burns connected for a 39-yard pass play to the West Noble 7, but two plays later, Jeramyah James recovered a fumble at his own 8 to snuff out a potential go-ahead score.
It didn’t take long for the Chargers to regain control.
On the fourth play of the fourth quarter, Pruitt ran 27 yards for a touchdown, lowering the boom on an Eastside player near his own sideline to clear space to the end zone. The run failed, but West Noble led 31-19 with 10:05 to play.
The Blazers moved the ball, but turned it over again in Charger territory, with Raven Slone recovering a fumble at his own 38.
West Noble’s defense again rose to the occasion. Gross punched the ball out of Miller’s hands near the end zone to save a touchdown, and intercepted Davis’ next pass, returning it 96-yards for the final score.