LEO-CEDARVILLE – The lack of a balanced offense finally caught up with Leo on Friday.
Class 4A No. 9 East Noble shut down the No. 5 Lions’ potent running game in a 10-7 win in the sectional semifinals.
With the running game going nowhere, the Lions went to the air to no avail until late in the game.
East Noble (9-2) plays Bishop Dwenger (8-3) next Friday in a sectional championship game at Saint Francis.
“It was one of those games where we didn’t execute as well as we wanted to on offense, but the defense has been like that (this season),” East Noble coach Luke Amstutz said. “They were awesome tonight and got the job done.
“We weren’t perfect, but that’s what you have to do in the playoffs. I feel like we probably should have won it 10-0 or 14-0 but give Leo credit. They stayed in it and moved the ball at the end. We thought we would get some more things offensively, but it just wasn’t that night. We were committed to keep running the ball and keep the ball because they couldn’t move it against us.”
The Lions (10-1) stuck to the ground in rolling through their first 10 opponents. Leo quarterback Jordan Hissong completed 19 of 43 passes this year for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Coming into the game, Logan Leiter and Hissong had accounted for more than 2,200 yards on the ground.
Friday, Leiter and Hissong combined for 60 yards. Hissong completed 2 of 5 passes for minus-4 yards.
In an effort to jump-start the offense, sophomore quarterback Kray Klopfenstein was inserted in the second half, and he eventually threw a 23-yard scoring pass to Zach Stoner with 1:46 left.
“We weren’t far enough behind where we felt like we had to throw it until the very end,” Leo coach Jared Sauder said of the team’s passing game. “We tried to make some adjustments. Credit East Noble, we just couldn’t move the ball. They did a great job of stopping the running game.”
After Stoner’s score, East Noble recovered the onside kick. The Lions got the ball back after a three-and-out but couldn’t get into field goal range.
Three lost fumbles and a blocked punt by Brandon Mable, who also scored a touchdown, didn’t help Leo’s offensive cause either.
“Our defense held their own,” Mable said. “We knew Leo was a good team, and we just wanted to stick it to them to have the chance to go to the next round of the sectionals.”
Jared Teders’ 32-yard field goal with 2:16 left in the third gave the Knights a 10-0 advantage.
The Leo defense was doing its part and held East Noble down, giving up just 10 points on two short-field drives from the blocked punt and a fumble recovery.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Sauder said. “Time and again they made a big stand. So many times in this game, things were going are way, and we turned the ball over.”