KENDALLVILLE — The numbers shined brilliantly on the scoreboard throughout the entire second half, but losing a football game didn’t process for NorthWood’s Trent Sauceda until the final whistle. His career and the career of many of his Panthers teammates was done after a 55-21 4A sectional loss to East Noble Friday, Oct. 25.
“I really didn’t have that moment until (the clock) hit zero,” Sauceda said after the contest. “Yea, things weren’t going our way, but the one thing we always say is NorthWood always fights. Especially our senior class. We’re not a bunch of guys who are going to give up on each other, even when it’s not going our way.”
And very little went the Panthers’ way — East Noble’s Brandon Mable made certain of that.
Mable rang up pinball machine-like numbers — 266 rushing yards in just 13 carries and five rushing touchdowns. Mable ran away from would-be tacklers, plowed through would-be tacklers and used after-burner speed to leave would-be tacklers reeling.
On the Knights’ first snap from scrimmage, the senior halfback slashed for 36 yards to the NWHS 10. It was all downhill from there.
Mable’s last attempt of the game — midway into the third quarter — was a brilliant 48-yard sprint around end from the “Wildcat” formation. The East Noble standout took a direct snap, bolted around any attempt at NorthWood containment and sprinted untouched for his fifth and final TD.
“In the film, obviously he looks fast, but it’s a totally different game once you get out there,” said Sauceda. “He’s quick. And he wasn’t afraid to run you over. It’s so frustrating ... you’re there and a 2-yard gain turns into a 30-yard touchdown.
“We couldn’t tackle, couldn’t wrap up and he was fast enough where we couldn’t to that, he’d just break a big one. That’s where it hurt us tonight.”
“We didn’t have the speed to match up with them ...we haven’t been able to match up with too many teams this year,” said Panther coach Scott Hoover. “They had it ... he’s a great athlete. They had a couple of them. He’s a tough kid to stop.”
NorthWood managed to move the ball on the ground in the first quarter and tied the game at 7-7 early as quarterback Will Kirkwood capped a 68-yard match by scoring from the 3. East Noble, though, hit the Panthers with 24 unanswered points before Kirkwood found Travis Bear for a 10-yard TD connection late in the second quarter. The two seniors hooked up one last time in the game’s final minute.
With the win, the Knights (8-2) placed themselves in next week’s sectional semifinals against unbeaten Leo, which eliminated Wawasee 35-7.
“We thought we could make it a game ... we thought there were some things we could do,” Hoover said. “I was happy that we could run the ball early, but we got into situations where you can’t run the ball all the time.”
After a 3-1 start to 2013, NorthWood struggled at season’s end with five losses in its last six games to finish 4-6.
The defeat marked the first time in 29 years of Indiana’s all-teams-in format that the Panthers had lost a first-round sectional game.
“We’re not a quick scoring offense and that makes it awfully tough,” Hoover said. “Good kids, a good group. This is always the toughest part of the job.”
“It’s a brotherhood, that’s the bottom line. We love each other, we love this game and we love playing together,” Sauceda said of his senior teammates. “That was the hardest part of tonight ... the friendships, the memories you’ve made. I know they have my back and I have theirs.”
East Noble 55, NorthWood 21
Scoring by Quarters
NorthWood 7 7 0 7 — 21
East Noble 21 13 14 7 — 55
School — Scoring Play
EN — Brandon Mable 2 run; Jared Teders kick, 8:38.
NW — Will Kirkwood 3 run; Connor Miller kick, 5:59.
EN — Mable 1 run; Teders kick, 3:56.
EN — Mable 11 run; Teders kick, :57.
EN — Mable 36 run; Teders kick, 9:24.
EN — Teders 21 field goal, 4:32.
NW — Travis Bear 5 pass from Kirkwood; Miller kick, 1:36.
EN — Teders 25 field goal, :09.
EN — Mable 48 run; Teders kick, 7:03.
EN — Tyler Leazier 3 run; Teders kick, 2:01.
EN — Nathan Ogle 16 pass from Bryce Wolfe; Teders kick, 11:06.
NW — Bear 10 pass from Kirkwood; Miller kick, :48.
Officials: Dennis Maude, Chris Kierski, each of Fort Wayne; Jim Dun, Kyle Eichenour, Dave Emenheiser, each of Decatur.
Team Statistics NW EN
Net yards rushing 154 318
Net yards passing 165 152
Total Yards 319 470
First Downs 11 15
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties 5-39 6-56
NorthWood: Rushing — Luke Edwards 7-77, Tanner Cleveland 12-48. Passing — Will Kirkwood 15-20-165 (0 int.). Receiving — Travis Bear 6-91, Trent Sellers 1-30.
East Noble: Rushing — Brandon Mable 17-266. Passing — Bryce Wolfe 11-15-83 (0 int.), Bret Sible 3-6-69 (0 int.). Receiving — Paul Dwyer 4-69, Grey Fox 5-54.