KENDALLVILLE-When it looked like East Noble (6-3) was going to beat Leo (10-0) for the third straight postseason, Leo was able to make the last big play of the game. Down 3 with less than 30 seconds to go, Leo quarterback Jackson Barbour threw a dart to Kaeden Miller who was covered by two East Noble safeties and miraculously caught a bobbling football at the 4 yard line. That same connection led to the game winning touchdown with just 4.9 seconds remaining as Leo came back to beat East Noble 32-29 in Kendallville.
The first half was mostly a defensive half, but Leo struck first with 2:17 left in the 1Q on a 8-yard run from Mason Sheron. After the missed 2-point conversion, it was 6-0 Leo. The Lions would hold that lead into the second quarter until East Noble senior Kainon Carico punched it in from the 1 to take the lead 7-6 after the made PAT. The Knights appeared to have had all the momentum when Nick Munson ran a 14-yarder into the end zone on 4th down with 1:51 left in the half.
Down 8, Leo showed no quit as they marched down the field thanks to a Carson Hoeppner touchdown. After making the two-point conversion, the game was tied at 14 with 3.7 seconds left in the half. This won’t be the last time Leo would be in this situation.
On Leo’s first drive of the second half, they scored right away thanks to a great individual effort by Mason Sheron for a 24-yard run into the end zone. Despite missing another 2-point conversion, Leo led 20-14 with 7:28 left in the third.
Leo would have this lead until the 6:11 mark of the 4th quarter. Leo appeared to have another scoring chance coming their way on a 42-yard run from Mason Sheron, but that was negated. Then, A disastrous special teams play led to a blocked punt and Aiden Sprague recovering the football deep into Leo territory. On the first play of scrimmage, Carico gave East Noble the lead 21-20 (after the made PAT).
Sheron would spark the Leo offense again on a 33-yard run followed by a fantastic effort by Hoeppner (on one leg) to the one and Jackson Barbour punching it in on a QB sneak. Despite missing another 2-point conversion, Leo led 26-21 with 2:20 left. But Leo left 6 points off the board due to missed conversions (which was something we didn’t see in their regular season meeting in Kendallville).
This opened the door for one last big drive for East Noble. On third down, Zander Brazel fed the ball to Rowan Zolman who stormed free down the left side line for an incredible 61–yard touchdown run to give East Noble the lead 29-26 with 1:55 remaining. It was jubilation for the East Noble fans, players, and staff.
However, maybe the biggest issue here was Leo had 1:55 to move the ball down the field and score. While Barbour had to make huge pass after huge pass in that drive, the Lions kept moving the chains. This drive led to Miller’s incredible catch, and the rest was history.
After losing to East Noble in the 2019 and 2020 sectional championship games, Leo eliminated their rivals on the first week of sectional play. Now it’s Leo’s turn to make history as they’ll host DeKalb next Friday.