KENDALLVILLE - As your favorite swine analyzed the match-up between Carroll and East Noble entering Friday's match-up, he did not see much in the way of positives for the Knights.
Here was Carroll, a team that barely fell short against New Haven last week. The Chargers would surely be hot and bothered and ready to take their anger out on a conference foe.
And there was the Knights, without arguably their best player in Brandon Mable, a team that watched a double-digit first quarter lead against Homestead on its home field evaporate just two weeks ago.
So, The Pig prepared himself for the worst, and openly told his legions of fans on Twitter and on The News-Sentinel Live Chat that Carroll would have the game well in hand by the end of the first quarter.
East Noble straight manhandled the Chargers in Friday's 27-7 victory that was not even as close as the score made it out to be. Carroll committed eight turnovers that included an onside kick to add insult to injury. The Knights moved the ball without its best ball carrier and limited Drue and Justin Tranquill on the perimeter as well as any team has done all season.
So much for The Pig knowing everything.
The Knights jumped out to the quick 7-0 lead and pushed it a two-score advantage early in the third on a 1-yard touchdown run by Walker Boyles.
This of course, was around the time East Noble began to fall apart against Homestead in an eventual 17-14 loss. But even after a Carroll touchdown cut the lead to seven at halftime, the Knights did not wilt.
A 29-yard field goal by Jared Teders made it a two-score game again late in the third, then Luke Amstutz utilized a squib kick that caromed off of a Carroll player and was recovered by the Knights.
Less than two minutes later, a pass by Bryce Wolfe in the flat to Boyles out of the backfield pushed the advantage to 24-7.
Game over. The plug had been pulled on Neon Nation.
Carroll outgained East Noble in total offense 224-203, but the Knights outmuscled the Chargers in all facets of the game. They pursued the Tranquill brothers as good as anyone has in recent memory, allowing the duo “only” six explosive plays of 15 yards or more.
Meanwhile, East Noble grinded out drives on the ground with Boyles and Jacob Brown and kept Carroll off balance with Wolfe going to the air.
The Knights' victory, coupled with the loss by Homestead to Bellmont, muddied the NHC race even further. New Haven sits alone atop the standings at 3-0, with four teams now at 2-1.
The race for the crown may very well go through Kendallville, with the Bulldogs visiting East Noble on Oct. 11.
If Friday taught us anything about Carroll and East Noble, it is that both are capable of playing as bad or good as possible in any given week.
And that is what is going to make the NHC championship race so appealing to watch over the final month of the regular season.
* Sometimes, it is just impossible to predict how teams are going to respond after a loss.
Look at Bluffton, for example. Coach Casey Kolkman's team was embarrassed last week by Woodlan in a 56-0 defeat.
So what do the Tigers do this week? They respond by knocking off Garrett on the road, the first time they have beaten the Railroaders since both teams have been in the ACAC.
What about Snider? They respond after the 38-point beatdown they took from Penn by…beating Concordia Lutheran by just one.
Or what about Carroll? After an emotional loss to New Haven in Week 4, they come back and lay an egg at East Noble.
It is fascinating to watch the ebb and flow of the high school season and how certain teams react to certain situations.
* Speaking of tough situations, is there anyone in a tougher spot right now than Kyle Lindsay? Bishop Luers is 0-5, with the real possibility that the Knights could go winless in the regular season.
The Knights have a pair of 2-3 teams on the slate in Concordia Lutheran and North Side over the next two weeks, and then go to Columbus Hartley and Bishop Dwenger to conclude the regular season.
Not one of those games is a sure thing.
Knights Nation is not used to seeing that goose egg in the win column, not after week 2 at the latest anyway. Fingers will be pointed and things will be said amongst those closely associated with the program. But The Pig says none should be pointed at Coach Lindsay.
This is a desperate time for the Knights, and what they need is someone to stand up in that locker room, look teammates in the eye and get in their faces if necessary.
Jaylon Smith was a leader.
James Knapke was a leader.
Anthony Spencer was a leader.
This team needs LEADERS. Coaches coach and leaders lead, this team has the majority of its coaching staff back from the days of former coach Matt Lindsay. These guys haven't forgotten how to coach.
What they need are players to take the reigns of the team and let the rest of them know that what is going on on the field on Friday nights is unacceptable.
There is too much talent on that roster for this team to be shut out by Wayne, plain and simple. The Generals are improved, no doubt, but not enough to be keeping Bishop Luers off the scoreboard.
The challenge has been laid. Come on Knights, prove The Pig wrong.