KENDALLVILLE – East Noble is in control of the Northeast 8 race.
The Knights, who came in ranked sixth in Class 4A, took a major step toward a third straight conference title Friday as they dominated No. 9 Leo 35-7 behind 322 total yards and four touchdowns from quarterback Bailey Parker on homecoming at East Noble.
Parker tossed three touchdown passes, all to 6-foot-3 wide receiver Gage Ernsberger, and ran in another score to lead the Knights (5-0) in a battle of unbeatens.
“(Parker) was awesome tonight,” East Noble coach Luke Amstutz said. “He made some really special reads in the run. ... He really controlled things, getting the ball to the right people. He made all the throws tonight. He was lights out.
“I told people before the season that I think he might be the best quarterback in the area and one of the best quarterbacks in the history of East Noble football. He's proving it every week.”
The game was knotted at 7 in the second quarter, but East Noble took the lead for good midway through the period. Knights running back Justin Marcellus and Parker broke back-to-back 15-yard runs to move the ball into Lions territory. Just a few plays later, Parker took a quarterback keeper around the left side and reached the sideline, sprinting 16 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 5:20 left in the half.
The Knights defense then came up with a stop and the offense had a chance to extend the lead before the half. Parker got the drive started with a deep crossing route to Hayden Jones, who hauled it in over the middle for a 46-yard gain. Jones finished with six catches for 110 yards.
Later in the drive, Ernsberger ran a fade route and Parker lofted a perfect pass in his direction. Ersnberger leapt and came down with the ball against tight coverage for a 9-yard score with just 13 seconds left in the half.
“What I saw was the (cornerback) was up pressing (Ernsberger),” Parker said. “What I did was I used my eyes to look off the other (defensive backs) by focusing the other way, looking like I'm gonna throw that way and I just turned and put it in the spot where (Ernsberger) wanted it, right above his helmet and he just goes up and gets it.”
The Knights went into halftime up 21-7 and the Lions (4-1) never threatened in the second half. Ernsberger caught touchdown passes of 27 yards and 2 yards after halftime to cement the win and East Noble outgained Leo 413-177.
The Lions' only score came in the second quarter when Kaeden Miller took the kickoff after East Noble's opening score and returned it 99 yards for a tying touchdown. The return was the longest in Leo history.
Leo's top running back and linebacker Peyton Wall suffered what appeared to be a non-contact leg injury in the fourth quarter, coming up hobbling on a kickoff return. He left the game and did not return.