Central Noble responds to multiple challenges for epic victory

ALBION – At the start of last week, Central Noble second-year football coach Greg Moe was a believer – in Churubusco. However, by the time that the biggest game in Cougar recent history kicked off Friday in front of a filled stadium, Moe and his players and the #CNJungle were all in on their boys.

The belief paid off, as Central Noble played incredible defense throughout the second half against IHSAA Class A 4th-ranked Churubusco and rallied to win 19-17.

The victory catapulted the Cougars (6-1, 3-0 Northeast Corner Conference) to first place in the Small Division of its league and assured Central Noble of a share of the Division title. A win Friday at Eastside will clinch the outright championship.

“I challenged them on Monday,” Moe said of his team following the win. “I told them that I didn’t believe that we were tough enough to beat these guys, because the way that we had practiced and the way that we had done things.”

One thing that football fans throughout Northeast Indiana are coming to learn about the 2017 edition of the Cougars, their coach included, is that when they are challenged, this group isn’t like any other Cougar squad in years.

The Cougars responded to the challenge and put together a week of “great practices,” which put them in position to knock off the Eagles (6-1, 3-1) for the first time since 2003.

In a similar manner, as Churubusco was dominating Central Noble throughout the first half in taking a 17-7 lead into halftime, the Central Noble players were again put into the position of having to respond.

“We had some adversity,” Moe said breathlessly as he bent over after the emotional game, “we made some mistakes, but in the end, they showed their toughness and came through and won the football game.”

The Cougars had dug themselves a hole with several mistakes, including a pair of bad snaps early in the game, one of which gave the Eagles tremendous field position and led to their second touchdown. However, that stuff came to a screeching halt – as did the vaunted Churubusco run game – in the final 24 minutes of the game.

“We tell the kids all the time,” Moe explained, “you make a mistake, come back and find a way to win.”

The Eagles were limited to a mere six yards of rushing in the final half and were forced to punt an unheard of eight times. To put that last number in perspective, Churubusco’s talented kicker (junior Joey Emenhiser) had punted 10 times – total – through the first six games of the season.

The Cougars faced the ultimate challenge on a couple of occasions, on both sides of the ball, in the final minutes.

Trailing 17-13 with just over 5:00 remaining, Moe’s team was forced to go for a 4th-and-one deep in its own territory, but it didn’t work, as the ‘Busco defense responded in its own right. However, the Central Noble defense – along with a mistake-prone Eagle (they committed a pair of penalties, including one that negated a touchdown) – forced another punt.

Central Noble answered with an 80-yard drive, but not without the aid of a huge fourth-down conversion that Moe wasn’t even aware of.

As Moe was meeting with his defense, the Cougars were facing a fourth down in which they had to go for, and Central Noble offensive coordinator Trevor Tipton called for a play in which quarterback Nick Alwine hooked up with tight end Jacob Brose for a long pass down to the ‘Busco 12-yard line.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Moe laughed. “Coach Tipton is my offensive coordinator and I’m paying attention to what we’re doing on defense so that I can talk to them. But (Tipton) does a heck of a job.”

A few plays later, senior runner Breeon Burgess was speeding wide into the end zone for the game-winning score. It was his second score of the second half, as the Cougars outscored the Eagles 12-0 in the final two quarters.

The victory assured Central Noble of its first winning season in nine years and its first conference title since 2003; achievements that were unfathomable a year ago, as Moe’s team struggled through a two-win season.

“It’s taken great dedication by our young men,” Moe said. “We were 2-8 last year and got our butts kicked all year. We made up our minds, when we started in November, that that crap was going to stop.”

A lot of “that crap” stopped on Friday in Albion and the whole Central Noble community are absolute believers in this team now.

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