By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
For offensive efficiency, it’s hard to improve on East Noble’s first-half showing Friday night against NorthWood in a Class 4A sectional quarterfinal game.
The Knights had six first-half possessions and scored TDs on four of them en route to a 55-21 win over the Panthers.
NorthWood had no answer defensively for East Noble senior running back Brandon Mable, who racked up 185 yards and all four of those aforementioned four TDs in the opening 24 minutes for the Knights.
On the evening, Mable finished with 275 yards on 19 carries with five TDs.
The early blitz was just what East Noble coach Luke Amstutz wanted to see in the first round.
“We were looking to get out to a lead, because we knew NorthWood was a quality, well-coached team,” Amstutz said.
Mable scored on runs of 2, 1, 1 and 36 yards ; the Knights also added field goals of 28 and 25 yards by Jared Teeter for a 34-14 halftime advantage.
NorthWood moved the ball well at times, but was inconsistent on offense.
The Panthers got their first-half scores on a 3-yard TD run from quarterback Will Kirkwood and a 5-yard pass from Kirkwood to Travis Bear.
The Panthers finally stopped the Knights on their opening drive of the second half, getting a nice sack on third down for a 9-yard loss and knocking away a pass on fourth-and-17 at the NorthWood 22.
But the Panthers couldn’t move the ball, going 3-and-out. The Knights got their offense back in gear in the next possession, getting a 52-yard TD scamper from Mable to take a 41-14 lead with 7:03 left in the third.
The Knights added two more late scores and NorthWood got an 11-yard TD pass from Kirkwood to Bear with 48.7 seconds left for its final points of the night – and the 2013 season.
Bear was a bright spot on offense for NorthWood, with six catches for 92 yards and two TDs. Kirkwood was 14-of-20 for 148 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.
NorthWood coach Scott Hoover said he knew his team was going to have a hard time matching up with East Noble’s speed. “We haven’t matched up well with teams with speed all season,” Hoover said.
Still, Hoover was proud of his team’s effort Friday night. “We tried to make it a game early,” Hoover said.
The Knights move on to next week’s sectional semifinals against Leo, a 35-7 winner over Wawasee in another sectional quarterfinal contest Friday night.
NorthWood finishes 4-6. The Panthers will say goodbye to 13 seniors.