All week leading up to his team's game at New Haven, East Noble coach Luke Amstutz was channeling the state champion Knights of 2000. And for good reason, what with NHC title hopes dashed and the playoffs looming.
“We didn't get the job done early,” Amstutz said of his team's early losses to Homestead and Carroll. “But now we need to keep taking steps towards being the team we can be. It's all about the post-season now and making sure we're ready. This team has the toughness to go a long way, just like those championship teams.”
So in the tradition of great post-season runs, Amstutz made a crucial change: he turned his hard-nosed linebacker, Walker Boyles, into a fullback. And, the benefits were immediate as Boyles rushed for the only two touchdowns of the game and the Knights went on to a 17-0 victory over the previously unbeaten Bulldogs.
“Walker Boyles is the prototype of the East Noble football player,” Amstutz said. “He gets right after it. He's tough. We needed a power back like those East Noble teams (of the early 2000s) and Walker brings it to the team.”
Boyles scored on a 1-yard run early in the second quarter to give the Knights a 9-0 lead on a night when a touchdown appeared to be enough. With driving rain and muddy conditions slowing down the fleet of foot, 9-0 might as well been 20-0 considering the Knights' dominating defense. Boyles scored on another 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter to clinch the victory.
The part-time move to offense suits Boyles just fine.
“I like it,” Boyles said. “We needed a bigger guy for our jumbo package.”
Boyles may be more proud of how he and the Knights did on the defensive side of the ball. New Haven gained just two first downs and 85 yards of offense, 46 of which came on a run by Damon Moore. East Noble also forced three fumbles and allowed New Haven into East Noble territory once, and that was on a kick-off return.
Asked if the muddy, wet and slippery conditions helped his team, Amstutz eagerly replied: “Absolutely. Kids in Kendallville are tough. Our kids love this. We may play on turf, but they love getting down and dirty.”
The best comments may have come as Amstutz was addressing his team after the game.
“From the moment you guys got off the bus, you were ready to play. You wanted to be out here in this,” Amstutz said. “And it showed. You were tough!”