KENDALLVILLE – Another Friday night, another fourth quarter drama forgot.
Only this time, it wasn't the New Haven Bulldogs who were its architects.
This time Brandon Mable ran, Bryce Wolfe ran and threw and East Noble's defense stole the Bulldogs blind, and in the end it wasn't close. Previously unbeaten New Haven (7-1, 5-1) might have come in having won six games by an average margin of 34.3 points, but it was East Noble (6-2, 4-2) that turned the evening into a drama-free zone, dominating from the start in a 30-6 win.
It was the ninth win in the last 10 meetings for the Knights, who rode Mable's 239 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Wolfe's 190 passing yards and 46 rushing yards and an opportunistic defense that recovered two New Haven fumbles and intercepted quarterback Vance Shearer three times, including twice in the end zone.
"Our red zone defense was incredible tonight," said East Noble coach Luke Amstutz, whose team prevented New Haven from clinching the NHC title outright. "They played with a lot of pride. We didn't put 'em in great positions, but they stepped up and got it done."
As did Mable, who returned from a three-week suspension for disciplinary reasons to lead a Knights' offense that reeled off book-length drives of 16, 12, 10 and 9 plays to keep the football away from the Bulldogs for great chunks of time.
"Our offensive line coaches just did an incredible job," Amstutz said. "Having Brandon back helped obviously. He played great. And our quarterback played his best game of the year; he did a phenomenal job."
Mable, for his part, was just happy to be back.
"After three weeks I got a lot of people I want to run over and I've got a lot of making up to do," he said. "Every time I touched the ball, I just wanted to fall forward. Even though I got myself tripped up a couple times, I just wanted to fall forward and punish them."
The punishment began early.
Wolfe's 46-yard swing pass to Mable on the Knights' first possession set up a 35-yard Jared Teters field goal, and, after New Haven went nowhere, the Knights took off again. This time they ground up more than five minutes on a 16-play, 85-yard drive that Mable ended by scoring from 8 yards away.
The Knights threatened twice more in the second, but Teders missed wide left from 35 yards to end a 12-play drive, and Jordan Hogue saved the Bulldogs with an end zone interception.
But an interception and Shearer's incompletion on fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line killed two potential scores. Then, after Adam Hoffer sacked Wolfe, forcing a fumble that Ariest Vasquez recovered at the East Noble 24 with 9:41 to play in the third quarter, Dylan Jordan's interception at the goal line snuffed out yet another threat.
The Knights answered with a Wolfe-to-Jacob Brown score to end a nine-play, 72-yard drive, and then Mable tore through the New Haven defense on a 48-yard ramble to make it 23-0 with 4:22 to play in the third.
"Our kids are playing hard," Amstutz said. "We're trying to peak at the right time of the year. We felt we did last year and this year we want to do the same thing."