GAS CITY — East Noble is just one win away from Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Knights (13-0) defeated Mississinewa (11-2) by the score of 30-14 in the Class 4A regional championship on Friday night for their first regional title since 2003.
Class 4A No. 2 East Noble will host No. 15 Hobart in the Class 4A north semi-state next Friday. The Brickies defeated No. 4 New Prairie 36-7 on Friday.
The East Noble defense showed up once again and held the Indians scoreless in the second half after allowing 196 yards in the first half. The Indians finished with 240 yards of total offense.
“It took our defense really coming together and getting back to their roots in the second half,” East Noble coach Luke Amstutz said. “We tried to get a little too cute this week in how we were going to stop (Cade) Campbell. In that second half, our defensive line played physical.”
No. 5 Mississinewa scored on its first two possessions of the game behind running backs Cade and Carson Campbell.
“At the beginning it was super hard,” East Noble junior linebacker Cole Schupbach said about taking down both Campbells. “Then, we just had the mindset and mentality to get after it. So that’s what we did in the second half.”
In the second half, the Knights were able to fill gaps and get penetration to bring down the powerful, brotherly duo. Leyth Al-Mohammedawi, Trey Ritchie, Caden Conley, Brooks Miller, Jacob VanGorder and many others on the East Noble defense turned 3- and 4-yard gains in the first half to 1-yard or no gain for the Campbells in the second.
“We just came in the locker room and coach told us we have 24 minutes left in the seniors’ season. The seniors just didn’t want to back down, so we stood up and made sure the seniors played one more game,” Schupbach said.
Like all season, no major adjustments were made defensively at halftime. The unit just matched the Indians’ intensity.
“We just became more physical. That’s what the coaches told us to do and that’s what we did,” Schupbach added.
For how special the defense was in the second half, the Knights’ offense was equally fantastic all night. East Noble racked up 434 yards of total offense, and a lot of those came from quarterback Bailey Parker.
The senior was 25-for-35 with 241 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 137 yards on 18 carries and another score.
“Words can’t describe it. The reporter from the Marion paper said he was speechless about (Parker’s) performance,” Amstutz said. “I don’t know what else to say either other than the dude just makes the throws, he runs tough, leads and is just cementing his legacy. Just an unbelievable game for him tonight.”
“This wasn’t just me man. This was the whole team. I couldn’t have done it without my receivers and offensive line. Gage (Ernsberger) made some good plays,” Parker said. “It’s insane that we just won regionals for the first time in forever, and I couldn’t have done without anyone on this field.”
Ernsberger made a one-handed grab for a 16-yard touchdown to extend the Knights’ lead to 23-14 early in the second half. On the play, Ernsberger’s defender was also called for defensive holding, making the catch even more difficult for the 6-foot-3 wide out. He finished with 61 receiving yards on six catches.
The game was sealed on an interception returned for a touchdown by sophomore defensive back Rowan Zolman, which made it 30-14 with just under five minutes to go.
It was East Noble’s seventh second-half shutout this season and it was much-needed for Friday’s win.
On the first five possessions of the game, the team that had the ball scored. After that, it was a defensive struggle.
The Knights took the opening kick and drove into the red zone before the offense stalled. Joe Painter gave East Noble an early 3-0 lead with a 28-yard field goal.
After the Indians took a brief lead, Parker orchestrated a quick, eight-play drive that went 80 yards and ended on a 9-yard run by Parker, who snuck just inside the pylon for the score.
East Noble tried the onside kick and recovered it, but they touched the ball too early, giving the ball to Mississinewa at the East Noble 49-yard line. The Indians didn’t take long to take advantage of the short field and took back the lead on a 2-yard run by Cade Campbell.
The Knights, once again, grabbed big chunks of yards on their next drive with a 22-yard run by Justin Marcellus, then a 28-yard pitch and catch from Parker to Hayden Jones for the touchdown to give the visitors a 17-14 lead before halftime. Marcellus rushed for 56 yards on 11 carries on the night and had five receptions for 24 yards. Jones finished with six catches and led the team with 94 receiving yards.
Brett Christian hauled in four passes for 33 yards, and Nick Munson added four catches for 29 yards.
Cade Campbell finished with 151 rushing yards on 32 carries, and his brother Carson had 10 attempts for 60 yards.