KENDALLVILLE-In a Clash the Titans, the Leo Lions dominated early and held off a huge East Noble rally to win 40-32 in front of a sellout crowd. The first half of this game was all Leo as they dominated the line of scrimmage.
On their first drive, Kaeden Miller found a huge hole and ran for 81 yards to set up Jackson Barbour’s quarterback sneak. Through 1 drive, it was 8-0 Leo. After a East Noble punt, Leo scored on a 7-yard run from Ethan Crawford to make it 16-0 Lions. East Noble would get on the board with 35.7 seconds left in the first quarter, thanks to a Kainon Carico run.
The second quarter was more of the same, despite the fact Jackson Barbour’s 4th down completion was negated due to a Leo penalty (forcing them to punt on that drive). A East Noble fumble allowed for Leo to jump on the loose ball and recovering it. A couple plays later, Leo’s Mason Sheron found his way to the end zone to make it 24-6 Leo.
Zander Brazel’s quarterback sneak allowed East Noble to cut into that deficit to 24-12. On literally the next drive, Leo’s Mason Sheron made a great individual effort as he ran past several East Noble defenders and scored a crucial touchdown to make it 32-12 Lions. Mason finished the game with 111 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
That would be the score going into halftime. That first half showed how dominant Leo’s running game can be, and how strong their offensive line truly is. However, the second half of the game would mostly belong to East Noble. The Knights got the ball to begin the second half, and they would score on another Carico touchdown. With the made PAT, it was 32-19 Leo with 6:55 left third quarter. Carico finished the game with 214 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries.
Then, the Knights’ defense forced Leo to punt. Their next drive would take them into the fourth quarter down 13 points. Just 47 seconds into the final quarter, East Noble capitalized with a Ethan Nickles touchdown. Despite cutting that score to 32-25, East Noble once again failed to convert on extra-point situations.
However, this game was unlike any game we will likely see for the rest of the regular season. On Leo’s next drive, they uncharacteristically fumbled the football where East Noble was there to recover it. They turned that turnover into six valuable points, when Nickles again reached the end zone on a 29-yard run to tie the game at 32 after the made PAT. That score came with eight minutes left in the game.
That seemed like plenty of time, but remember this game was no ordinary game. In a situation where Leo needed a spark, Kaden Miller made that play. A 47-yard run brought Leo into East Noble territory and a chance to retake the lead.
Throughout this half, East Noble had converted on three straight fourth down conversions. They scored all three times. Leo, on 4th and 8, got a huge first down on a Mason Sheron run with under 5:40 to play. Shortly thereafter, Leo scored the eventual game-winning touchdown, when Kaeden Miller found his way to the end zone from 15 yards out. The score was 40-32 Lions. Kaeden would go on to run for 159 yards to go with that touchdown.
However, that came with 3:29 left in the game. That was plenty of time for East Noble to get one last look at the end zone. The game came down to that last drive, when East Noble was deep into theIr red zone. The Knights had plenty of chances to score, including a Zander Brazel pass that Rowan Zolman was unable to make the catch. On 4th and 9 and 15 seconds remaining, Brazel’s final pass of the night was incomplete, and Leo survived a crazy rally.
This win basically gives Leo (5-0, 3-0 in NE8 play) the driver’s seat to win their second straight conference title. Now it’s about winning out their remaining conference games. For East Noble (3-1, 2-1 in NE8 play), they showed a lot of good things in this game, but they have plenty of room to improve for the rest of the regular season.
We are now officially halfway through the regular season, and we are already looking forward to hopefully another East Noble-Leo rematch in sectionals