KENDALLVILLE — It was cold November night and a state-championship berth was on the line.
Those who were in attendance for the Class 4A North Semi-State championship between East Noble and Bishop Dwenger on Nov. 21, 2003, remember what a wild scene it was. A similar environment is expected this Friday night when the Knights (13-0) host Hobart (11-2) in the Class 4A north semi-state game.
“That’s really cool about what’s coming up on Friday, not only for our kids and coaches, but for our community,” East Noble activities director Nick David said. “To be able to host a semi-state caliber event is an honor for East Noble. We’re going to do the best job we can.”
In 2003, hours before the game people started lining up to get into the game. Former East Noble quarterback Jeff Wedding remembers fans arriving during the school day.
“All week people were putting down blankets on the bleachers to save a spot. I remember people were parking their cars outside of the fence early in the day,” Wedding said.
East Noble broadcaster Fred Inniger said a line of people trying to get into the game formed around 2 p.m. He added that fans were already loud before kickoff.
“Like you see in basketball, the crowd started cheering a half hour before the game. I expect that again on Friday night,” Inniger said.
Former East Noble football coach Chris DePew, who’s coached in three semi-state games, remembers taking it all in just for a moment before the game.
“I do remember that game Tom Wogoman and I walked out there pregame and just let ourselves turn and look at the crowd and think about it, for the two of us, we gave ourselves a moment to soak it up,” DePew said. “Because it hadn’t always been that way there. It was pretty bad 10 years before that. We said that together and then maybe 10 seconds of soaking it up, trying to get to work because obviously there was a lot to think about.”
What helped create the large crowd on the visiting side was the short drive for Bishop Dwenger and its fans.
“I remember that night saying and feeling that was the most people I’d ever seen there,” DePew said. “The neat thing was that even though it was a semi-state game, Dwenger was a really close team, a storied program that traveled well.”
Wedding said, “The crowd itself during the game was just packed all along the fence and in the stands."
“It was something that I thought was once in a lifetime, but it’s going to be twice in a lifetime,” Inniger said. “It was crazy, but a fun crazy.”
Hobart is expected to bring a big crowd, even if the drive is more than two hours.
“We’re expecting a big crowd. Hobart is releasing school early, and their athletic director and I have been talking back and forth this week, and he said they have right now three fan buses, maybe more coming,” David said. “This is what high school athletics is all about, if you’re fortunate to get to this level.”
Not only are fans of East Noble and Hobart expected to be in attendance for Friday’s game, but also general football fans from around the area because it’s the only semi-state game in northeast Indiana. The Class 1A North Semi-State between Adams Central and Lafayette Central Catholic is in Lafayette, and Bishop Dwenger has to travel to Valparaiso for the Class 5A North Semi-State.
Inniger said he’s already had people from Garrett, Auburn, Ligonier and Columbia City tell him they are coming to the game.
The scene at East Noble High School Friday night will be one that hasn’t been replicated in 16 years. The game should be pretty good, too.