FORT WAYNE – Vince Lombardi never said timing is the only thing. But he never saw the Carroll Chargers, either.
Or at least he never saw them the way Carroll coach Doug Dinan saw them Friday, as East Noble held the football and held the football and held the football and then found out, in the end, that possession is only nine-tenths of victory as well as nine-tenths of the law.
Final score on the night of Carrolls homecoming: Chargers 24, East Noble 20.
Every other conceivable number that mattered: All East Noble, as the Knights threw the football a staggering 59 times, ran 87 plays to Carrolls 52, and lost because the Chargers timing was, to say the least, exquisite.
Three times the Knights reached the end zone to take a lead. Twice Carroll answered immediately by returning the ensuing kickoff for scores to take the lead back – once on Drue Tranquills 85-yard gallop in the first quarter, and once on Jimmy Crumleys 81-yard burst up the middle with 9:12 to play.
The second erased Nic Weimers go-ahead 17-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Mable and proved to be a killing blow on an evening when a killing blow never seemed it would come.
There are three areas of the game, and one of our areas answered when we needed it to, Dinan said, summing it up neatly.
Yeah, special teams tonight was our third offense, he said.
And timing and defense did the rest on a night when the Chargers were slowed by a dozen penalties and didnt make a first down in the second half until they needed it – with a tick more than two minutes to play, when Justin Tranquill plowed seven yards on second-and-5 at his own 30 to finally keep the ball out of East Nobles mitts.
When we had to get a first down to kill time, to leave the defense off the field, we did, Dinan said. We showed a lot of heart because we could have given up many a time, but they continued to fight.
East Noble struck first, Mable fleeing 59 yards with a shovel pass on the Knights fourth play. Then, after Carroll answered with a 13-yard pass from Chris Terry to Justin Tranquill, the Knights went up 12-7 on a 1-yard Mable run with 3:07 to play in the first quarter.
Drue Tranquill immediately answered that with his 85-yard kickoff return. The Knights never scored again until Weimer finally found Mable in the end zone with his 53rd pass of the night – and then the Carroll defense came up with one last big play, Justin Tranquill intercepting Weimer at the goal line to kill East Nobles final threat with 2:54 to play.