Before the season, East Noble quarterback Bailey Parker told me his team was going to the state finals. Being the skeptical journalist, I wasn’t quite so sure for various reasons.
The Knights hadn’t been to state, let alone won a sectional title in 16 years, they had to replace one of their most productive players in Kaiden Harshberger and I wasn’t sure if they were even the best team in their own conference.
It wasn’t just before the season that these thoughts occurred. There were a couple of points early in the season when I thought that lofty goal wasn’t going to be achieved.
To start the season, the Knights rallied from a 10-point deficit and forced a fumble inside the 5-yard line with 11 seconds to go to beat Plymouth.
At that point, you could have told me East Noble was going to play in the Class 4A state title game. I wouldn’t have believed you because the defense just gave up 500 yards to the Rockies’ offense.
A couple of weeks later in their Northeast 8 Conference opener, the Knights were tied 7-7 at halftime with Huntington North, a team they’ve handled easily for the last four seasons. They went on to win by 14 points.
At that point, you could have told me East Noble was going to play in the Class 4A state title game. I wouldn’t have believed you because I thought it shouldn’t allow a team like that to hang around for as long as a they did.
But then, the Knights started putting it on teams, not only the bad teams but good teams too, which slowly began turning doubt into belief that they could make it to Indianapolis.
They beat their next six opponents by an average margin of 34.8 points and didn’t allow more than eight points in a game. During the six-game stretch, three games reached a point where the running clock rule was implemented.
East Noble went on to win its third straight NE8 title, but it was about to enter a part of the season where it struggled to have much success, which is when the doubt started to creep back in.
In the first two games of the sectional round, their dominance continued, setting up a rematch against Leo in the sectional championship, a game they had only been in twice in 16 years.
The Lions were improved since the 35-7 beatdown the Knights put on them in Week 5. However, a dominant defensive performance in the second half gave East Noble its first sectional title since 2003 and gave some credibility to its chances of going deeper into the postseason.
The next two weeks provided tough, physical matchups for the Knights. But the win over Leo and the fashion they were able to play and dominate defensively in the second half, led me to believe the Knights had a good chance to pick up two more wins.
But when the Brickies were up 17-0 after a pick-six, you could have told me East Noble was going to play in the Class 4A state title game and I wouldn’t have believed you because I thought that was too much of a deficit to overcome.
Once again, the Knights rallied back in front of one of the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at a high school football game played on a high school campus, which made the win even more special.
I believed they had a good shot at beating Evansville Memorial. I even believed when the Knights trailed the Tigers in the second half. There was still hope it could rally because they had instilled the belief that they could, because they had done it all season.
Even though the Knights fell short of their ultimate goal, they achieved more than I thought they would. This season was a special one to follow, and the 2019 East Noble football team was a special one that made believers out of everyone, including me.