KENDALLVILLE – The lightning stayed away from the Warsaw at East Noble football game Friday night.
That didn’t stop the host Knights from finding plenty of ways to electrify their home fans.
East Noble proved worthy of its lofty ranking by storming past the Tigers 49-14 in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
The Class 4-A No. 7 Knights scored four touchdowns incredibly enough on fourth down plays in the rout. The hosts also returned a fumble 85 yards for another score and recovered a mishandled snap on a Warsaw punt attempt in the end zone for yet another touchdown.
East Noble star Brandon Mable was everywhere. The 5-10, 185-pound speedster of a tailback ran for two touchdowns. He was also the one who scooped the Tiger fumble and returned in to pay dirt and for good measure he fell on the fumble on the punt attempt.
East Noble, now 2-0 on the young season, scored the final 21 points of the game after Warsaw rallied to cut the lead to 28-14 with a pair of scores just 21 seconds apart midway through the third quarter.
The only thing that may have rivaled the smoke that hung over the Warsaw sideline after fireworks were shot off after each East Noble score was the steam coming from Tiger coach Phil Jensen’s ears following the poor showing.
Jensen, his team now 1-1, did not mince words after a very short and to the point post game talk with his team.
“I’m very disappointed in our mental effort,” said Jensen. “We have a lot of soul searching to do as coaches and as players. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve lambasted a team after a game like I did tonight. They deserved it. I’m embarrassed.
“We made mental errors tonight. We talked all week about being mentally tough. There were lots of things that we need to get fixed. Everything that we are not built to do as a team we did tonight.
“We can’t turn the ball over and we did. We can’t give up big plays and we did. We can’t expect to outscore people. That’s not what we are about and how this team is set up.”
A pair of huge first-half turnovers dug the Tigers a 14-0 hole. Warsaw had the momentum after an interception and a great return by Caleb Heckaman. But, an interception and then a turnover on a fumbled center-quarterback exchange gave the Eagles two short field.
East Noble scored on drives of just 29 and 34 yards after the pair of Tiger turnovers to lead 14-0 at halftime. The first score for the hosts came as junior quarterback Harold Wolfe hit star receiver Grey Fox with a 25-yard scoring strike on a fourth and 17 play. The Knights made it 14-0 when Mable danced in from 13 yards out on a fourth and two call.
The third quarter turned into a shootout.
East Noble built its lead to 28-0 as Mable fell on the botched punt attempt and then Wolfe hit Fox again for an eight-yard touchdown on a slant play on a fourth and eight call.
The Tigers finally dented the scoreboard with 5:10 to play in the third period. Tanner Balazs took an inside handoff, broke a tackle and turned it into a beautiful 55-yard scoring scamper. Warsaw got the ball right back when Austin Taylor pounced on a fumble. On the next play, Tiger quarterback Austin Head hit Conner McCammack, who made a great leaping catch, for a 34-yard scoring strike to make it 28-14.
East Noble wasted no time in taking the momentum right back. Mable slipped through a would be tackler and raced 43 yards for a touchdown. Mable then scored on his fumble return in the final period and the second string East Noble offense scored on a 10-yard run by Nathan Wible on a fourth and seven play.
“We had a couple balls bounce our way tonight and we had guys step up and make plays and capitalize,” said East Noble coach Luke Amstutz. “No. 1 (Mable) is good. A lot of Division I schools are missing out on him.
“Our defense played well tonight. They were physical and played with energy. You know what you have to focus on when you play Warsaw. We did a good job for the most part on McClone. I thought we had our worst offensive performance in two years. We were abysmal.”
Warsaw star tailback Tristan McClone, who had over 200 yards and three touchdowns in the opener, had 107 yards on 23 carries Friday night. He had just one long run, a 29-yarder, as the East Noble defensive front outplayed the Tiger offensive line all game long.
The Knights rushed for 246 yards as Mable had 103 and Wolfe added 67. Wolfe was also 14-18 for 178 yards passing in East Noble’s no-huddle, shotgun formation.
Warsaw (1-1) hosts Plymouth to open Northern Lakes Conference play next Friday night. The Rockies improved to 2-0 by routing Rochester 35-0 Friday night.
East Noble (2-0) hosts Homestead next Friday night.